My latest essay is live at The Everyman, wherein I get to talk about one of my favorite movies and it’s take on modern manhood:
Brody’s efforts to do his duty as a man and leader are thus stymied by the economic and political interests of the middle-class townsfolk. His job and thus his ability to care for his family is dependent on his going along with the town, and the town’s comfortable, middle-class lifestyle is dependent on tourist dollars.
The result is that Brody strongly suspects there to be a danger to the people he is responsible for, but is unable to do anything about it.
And indeed, lest we judge Vaughn too harshly, a later scene at a town meeting suggests that he himself lacks the authority to close the beaches. Even after a public attack resulting in the death of a little boy, the townsfolk nearly revolt at the prospect of closing the beaches even for twenty-four hours. The people simply refuse to accept the idea of a situation that will require them to undergo privation, and since both Brody and Vaughn are dependent on the people for their own well-being, they have to go along with them.
As depicted in the film, therefore, the modern American man finds his ability to act as a man suppressed by economic and political interests, such as the need to keep a job and the consequent need to follow the will of the majority.
Yet the consequence of his failure still fall on him, not on the people whose self-interests restrain him. In one of the film’s dramatic highlights, Brody is approached by the mother of the dead boy, who slaps him across the face before tearfully rebuking him for letting people go swimming even when he knew the water was dangerous. After she leaves, Vaughn tries to console Brody by saying, “She’s wrong.”
“No, she’s not,” Brody answers. At the end of the day, it was his duty to keep people like young Alex Kintner safe, and he failed. He may have failed for perfectly understandable reasons, but he failed nonetheless and a life was lost.
Read the rest here. And go see the movie if you haven’t.