An Award-Winning Disclaimer

A charming little Magpie whispered this disclaimer into my ear, and I'm happy to regurgitate it into your sweet little mouth:

"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

These views represent the thoughts and opinions of a blogger clearly superior to yourself in every way. If you're in any way offended by any of the content on this blog, it is clearly not the blog for you. Kindly exit the page by clicking on the small 'x' you see at the top right of the screen, and go fuck yourself."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Very Model of a Modern Major-General

As many of you know, I am an actor.

Well, I'm lots of things, but an actor, is, I suppose, one of them.

I even got paid to be an actor. Once. $20.00 an hour. I was hired by the University of Pennsylvania Medical School's Cultural Sensitivity Department to portray a mega-prick doctor treating (and mistreating) a patient with AIDS in a training web video for med students and physicians. You can watch me critically raise one eyebrow as I spout off insensitive gems like,"You're not gay, are you?" And, if you're a doc, you can get one whole CME credit, just for watching that shit!

All the other times I've appeared on stage and on film it's been for free, and, usually, it's been degrading. In 8th grade, I appeared in my middle school's production of The Pajama Game in a pair of boxer-shorts in front of hundreds and hundreds of amused (or were they bemused?) parents of my peers. And that was just the beginning.

Recently, I've run into a bit of a streak of portraying men from the armed forces. Sort of. In 2006, I appeared as Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. in a production of H.M.S. Pinafore, and it was easily one of the gayest, twittiest roles I've ever done. And, as they say, I've been doin' this for a minute. Next Friday, I will inhabit the body and yellow shoes of the slightly psychotic General Genghis Khan Schmitz in a production of Seussical. In November, it's back to the merry and silly world of G&S where I will once again don a uniform to play Major-General Stanley.

I'm currently growing out my beard so that I can sport ridiculous facial hair for General Schmitz. For dress rehearsal, I'll shave off most of it, probably leaving a silly moustache and perhaps a pair of mutton chop sideburns to complete the effect. I've gone back and forth about what to do with the facial hair. Not that it's especially important, but I'm a fan of concerning myself with the irrelevant.

Keeps me off drugs.

All of these recent affiliations with militaria have gotten me thinking about the image of the military man over the centuries and how it's changed. Of course, the ideal of manhood has changed significantly over time, but I don't know how often it's been seriously considered. We give a lot of thought in this society about the image of the ideal woman, because women are hot. There's always talk about the ideal shape of a woman. Perfection of the female form in the 1860s was quite different from that of the 1950s, which was, of course, very, very different from the feminine ideal of, say, the 1990s.

But nobody looks much at the change in men, much less military men. Today, we don't even think twice about our image of the perfect military man. He's butch. He's tough. He could kill you with his pinkie finger. Fuck, he's so tough, he doesn't even have pinkie fingers. He's too fucking tough for pinkie fingers. He's got 10 fucking middle fingers-- to flip off OSAMA!


This is what we expect our military men to look like nowadays. This is the modern ideal of a soldier. Macho. Threatening. Butch. Crewcut. Armed to the teeth. A negative grimace. Piercing eyes. Of course, it also doesn't hurt if his little dogtags rest in between two killer pecs, too.

Isn't that right, Major Hottie?

Though it might be hard to believe, this isn't always how it was. Bullet-chomping bunk-hunks weren't always the way military men rolled. Macho wasn't always the preferred aesthetic for the men of the armed forces. I mean, take a ride in the old DeLorean with me back just a couple centuries and get a load of old Lieutenant General Cornwallis.

Macho? Hardly. Fit-and-finish? Lacking. His dog-tag must have resided quite comfortably between his boobies. Look at the walking stick. Look at the effete positioning of the left arm and hand, as if to say, "A battle? Now? Oh, no, luv-- I just had these nails done!"

Now, I know what you're going to say: He's British-- of course he's gay. They're practically synonyms. Well, that may be true, but let's look at someone from the other side of the pond, from that same time period.

Look at this string-beany little wank. Just look at him. The father of our country. He's trying to be macho, but look at how he's forcing his arms to rest straight at his sides. You know he's doing everything in his power to restrain himself from resting one hand daintily on his hip. Come on, look at how he's straining. He's dying to do it. It's okay, George. Do it. Do what feels natural. It'll feel good.

Ahhhhhhhh...... See? Doesn't that feel better? Good. Now get away from that horse, you fucking pervyderv.

Moving up a century or so, we see that much as changed in the realm of the military ideal. As in the civilian world, powdered wigs are out, and facial hair is in. The advent of the photograph and the daguerreotype have brought us copious images of the military ideal during the Civil War. There's my personal favorite, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Brevet Major-General:

Now that is a 'stache that says "knock off that slave and secession bullshit already," am I right? See-- we're getting butch-er, but we're not quite there yet. Can't you just picture the photographer giving out his instructions for this photograph?

"Okay, Lawrence. I see you've blown-dry your moustache. That's okay, I guess. No harm done. Just... listen-- just put your hands in your lap. Stare off vacantly into space and, please, for the love of God, try not to look gay. Just, you know-- don't do anything gay. I mean, this is 1865 already, you know? Just, remember: D.B.G. Don't be gay."

And I think, for the time, he's doing a pretty good job of keepin' it D.B.G. It's not easy. It's just hard for modern Americans to believe that people who looked like this seriously picked up guns and swords and bayonets and fucking killed other people who looked like this. We could maybe picture Joshua Chamberlain inviting a regiment from the 15th Alabama over to his house and poisoning their tea, but shoving his sword through one of their heads? I don't think so.

And then there's this guy-- he just screws up all valiant attempts at butchness.

You just had to put your hand on your hip, didn't you?

World War I was, I feel, the turning point. It was the transitional, liminal period between the genteel warrior/gentleman and the fightin' bastard that we have come to expect. I mean, I wouldn't want to fuck with these guys:

Then again, I'm pretty sure that this gentleman would rather join me for cocktails than shoot me in the face.

So three cheers for our military men, whether they fit into our stereotypical bullshit ideals of manhood or not. You're all patriots, valorous, dutiful and brave viscous killers in my book. And God Bless you for it. Better you than me.


  1. Hip hip hooray! and fucking hilarious!

    I've never been a military man (I'm a lover not a fighter), but I have posed for pictures with my hand on my hip, and the hell if I'm giving up either of my pinkie fingers.
    Your post makes me wonder if I could have been a great man if I'd been born a couple of centuries earlier.

  2. Wow, and we both "do" CME too.
    The similarities keep piling on...

    I'll pretend it's coincidence. But if I find you outside my window stalking me I'll shoot first and ask questions second.

    And my hand will be on my hip the whole time.

  3. Well, he might want to join you for cocktails, but he might also want to shoot you in the face. Just saying.

  4. Ah well, guess I'll never be a military man, either. I wear the same uniform, follow the same rules, and fight the same wars. But I look a damn sight better with my hand on my hip. :)

  5. "the same uniform"

    I thought they had you gals in those unflattering, nun-like skirts.

    And tell me the truth-- you wouldn't pose for a formal dress-uniform portrait with your hand on your hip, no matter how good you looked doing it.

  6. Wow, this entry went places. I liked the acting to soldiering segue -- especially, you know, how soldiers are probably acting at being butch.

    I think you made an unfair comparison though -- there would've been butch soldiery types back in ye olde Englande too, but you found a painting of an officer! Go and watch some of the Sharpe TV adaptations, or just read the books. I'm pretty sure footmen looked pretty damn manly sighting down the barrel of their rifle-and-bayonet.

    Anyway, at least you recovered by moving away from the British officer quickly.

    Very funny, Mr Bile.

  7. Sebastian--

    I knew I was going to get on some Brit's wick with this post.

    I'm glad the wick was yours.

  8. Hah. I assure you my wick is merely whetted.

    Don't tempt me to bash Americans. We both know that American pride is about five notches above the British.

  9. Don't worry-- America-bashing is alive and well on this blog.

    Never forget, I'm a closeted Anglophile with one stockinged ankle daintily out the door.

  10. And I'm happy to bash Britain too -- but it's different when someone else laughs at you, no? :P

    Why are you an Anglophile anyway? 'cos it sucks to be American?

  11. I was raised on all things British, from a very early (too early) age: Fawlty Towers, MP Flying Circus, Gilbert & Sullivan. In 7th grade, my big book report was on "A Liar's Autobiography" by Graham Chapman, and my letter to an important person was to the Queen.

    How can you not be enamored with a people who refer to cupcakes as "fairycakes?"

  12. I want to say how endearing it is that Americans use 'scoot' or 'sweet' way too often, but you're right: you guys gut nuffin' on our fairycakes.

    Are you Canadian then? You weren't brought up in the UK I guess?

    Or is Philadelphia just chock full o' royalists?

  13. Canadian? No. Though, while "on holiday" (see, I'm sick) in Bali, I was mistaken for a Frenchman.

    Philadelphia isn't full of royalists. It's full of people with few teeth and a Rocky complex.

    I must have been dropped on my head. Or my arse.

  14. Mr. A - most days, we're in a PT and a field uniform. They make one cut, various sizes, none fitting hips or waists. (Unless you're pregnant, in which case there's a separate tunic. That wasn't even in place until the '70's, I believe.)

    As for the dress uniforms - we're required to purchase both pants and skirts. The pants sure aren't cut for a women's figure. And for a formal picture, they require everyone to be in the position of attention. :)


Got something to say? Rock on with your badass apron!