I am trying to draw some threads together for some of the models of masculinity that are prevalent in contemporary culture. One that I am particularly aware of through friends is that of GQ man.
I recently bought an issue of GQ at an airport. The strapline is "the men's magazine with an IQ", and it is a glossy, slickly presented product. I was very surprised by the content. In the 240 or so pages I found an appeal to somebody for whom the exterior image is hugely important. I counted the number of advertisements and placement within articles for men's cosmetics (both scents and products like hair thickening shampoo). There was also a huge reliance on brand images for watches, clothes and accessories (things like sunglasses or mp3 players).
Having read No Logo I am aware of the power of branding, but in GQ was really quite surprised by the extent to which cross branding has developed. I counted 10 ads for items such as a Chanel watch (what does somebody who can make a nice scent know abut making a complex timepiece?) or, rather bizarrely, Jaguar fragrances (I don't think cars smell very nice). Clearly brand is very important to GQ man as a badge demonstrating the sophistication of his choices.
The articles (the bit where I was looking for the IQ) were broadly disappointing. One good one was about a joutrnalist in Baghdad, but the rest were rather lame. They included an interview with Boris Becker (more concerned with the incident in a restaurant that led to the paternity suit against him than in his tennis), and an article about Gazza and the dentist's chair incident in a Hong Kong nightclub prior to Euro 96.
I was also struck by the portrayal of women in the magazine. There were no titillating shots, but plenty containing women in underclothes, and an article about women's attitudes to sex. One article warned against the desire of women to trap a man into marriage. There was also a photo article about the LA pornography industry and another about how sex is portrayed in the movies. Clearly GQ has a fairly simplistic view of womanhood.
It was interesting to compare the above with movies. In About A Boy and Vanilla Sky the leads are wealthy, brand astute men with a similar attitude to money and sex. Both films revolve around the impact that multiple relationships have upon the "playboy" lifestyle enjoyed at the start of the film.
Is this what being a man is all about? Surely not!