WEIRDLAND: Modern Masculinity, Jim Morrison

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Modern Masculinity, Jim Morrison

Men’s biology hasn’t substantially changed in tens of thousands of years. And for this reason alone the crisis in masculinity we face today can’t be understood or combated through a narrow biological lens. Anthropology can uncover the complicated cultural origins of seemingly biological male behavior and show how certain essentialized beliefs about maleness promoted by scientists are themselves products of the same cultural influences. Scientists can be just as susceptible as nonprofessionals to thinking that particular chromosomes and hormones reveal the secret codes of human maleness. We need to understand that women are central to most men’s very sense of manliness and virility. For most men in the world, most of the time, women are central to what it means to be a man. This means paying attention to the opinions and experiences of women regarding men, and how, for many men, masculinities develop and have little meaning except in relation to women and female identities in all their similar diversity and complexity. Post–World War II conservatism tried to reestablish women’s intrinsic place in the kitchen and home, but it was then broadly opposed in the upheavals of the 1960s and early 1970s. As women in the United States recovered after the 2008 Great Recession, landing more jobs more quickly than men, men’s contributions to families and communities got reexamined, and the image of man-the-breadwinner became blurrier. In periods of significant social ferment, including around gender issues—for example, the 1930s, 1960s, and 2010s in the United States—gender confusion has prevailed, often in dialogue with influential scientific and public opinion.

Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975), by Edward O. Wilson, stands out for what seems an explicit distaste for certain progressive social movements—including feminism that seeks to eliminate the “natural” differences between the sexes—and for directly linking sociobiology with his rejection of the social upheavals of the era. Most people think that if a man has especially aggressive tendencies, the chances are that he also has a higher-than-average level of testosterone circulating in his bloodstream. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong. According to current research, if aggression and testosterone are linked, most of the time aggressive behavior comes first, and it then raises the level of testosterone in one’s body. For most of us most of the time, however, it turns out that testosterone levels by themselves “predict nothing about who is going to be aggressive.” And that fact holds true unless testosterone levels are extremely high or low. Unless they are lower than 20 percent of normal (think castration) or twice the normal amount (think gym rats on steroids), testosterone levels are all but irrelevant at telling you who’s going to pick a fight. Perhaps the most fascinating recent work on testosterone is mostly ignored in the popular media: higher levels of testosterone can also be correlated with higher levels of generosity. Because testosterone may intensify particular preexisting bonding behavior, it turns out that not only aggression but also generosity might fit in the pantheon of a masculine conduct. We can do better, and we need to ask more from modern masculinities. Men are so much more capable and complex than today’s summary judgments on the biology of masculinity would have us believe. ―Are Men Animals?: How Modern Masculinity Sells Men Short (2020) by Matthew Gutmann 

"Gutmann does more than deconstruct simplistic notions of masculinity-he offers us a better vision of what it means to be masculine. He knows we can do better, and create anew a reality where masculinity and humanity comingle instead of conflict. This book is wholly appropriate for this moment in time. Everything men and women do in our society is the product of both biology and culture. As ably explained by Matthew Gutmann, this means that male behavior is hardly immutable. It has more degrees of freedom than often assumed. Can men be less aggressive, less sexual and less dominant? This provocative book argues strongly that the answer is yes. This is a golden moment to begin that conversation."―TM Luhrmann, professor of Anthropology, Stanford University

“Most people love you for who you pretend to be.” – Jim Morrison

Shake dreams from your hair. My pretty child, my sweet one. Choose the day and choose the sign of your day. A vast radiant beach in a cool jeweled moon. And we laugh like soft, mad children. The time has come again. Choose now, they croon. Beneath the moon. Enter again the sweet forest. Enter the hot dream. Everything is broken up and dances. Your milk is my wine. My silk is your shine. 

Everything human is leaving her face. Soon she will disappear into the calm vegetable morass Stay! My Wild Love! Earth Air Fire Water. Mother Father Sons & Daughters. Airplane in the starry night. First fright. Forest follow free. I love thee. Watch how I love thee. —Wilderness (1971) by Jim Morrison

Alan R. Graham (ex-husband of Jim Morrison's sister Anne): Pamela Courson was so very close to Jim from the beginning because of her love for his poetry. She urged him to write and told him he was a real poet before anyone else did. In return for her love and nurture, Morrison let her deep inside of his heart. He needed this kind of love badly. Most people are only familiar with his stage performances. The real Jim Morrison was buried deep below that exterior. Jim was pure wolf. He hung with his own. That is to say, he hung alone. Jim was a lone wolf for sure, but he also hung out with coyotes like Babe Hill. Being pure wolf that he was, he needed a she-wolf to stay with for life, Pamela Susan Courson. Pamela was the muse who inspired many of Jim Morrison's songs and poems like "Love Street," "Queen of the Highway," or "Twentieth Century Fox." 

Tom Baker (actor in Andy Warhol's "I, A Man" co-starring Nico) recounting his first meeting of Pamela Courson: "Monday, 14, November 1966 - 10 days before Thanksgiving, I was whisked from New York’s wind-chilled winter streets to the subtropical climate of Hollywood. Upon arriving, I went to Laurel Canyon home of a friend. Five minutes later, a young girl came knocking on the door, asking to use the phone. She lived across the street and hers had been cut off. She was dressed in old jeans and a man’s work shirt with her hair piled in curlers, but her beauty was still apparent to me. Her name was Pamela. It was clear to me she was more than just a pretty face. Although she was only 18 years old and did not have a high school diploma, she was bright and quick with a sophisticated knowledge of literature. Hearing she dated Jim Morrison from The Doors created a bit of resentment in me toward Jim, because for sure, I had fallen deeply in love with Pam. Just prior to Jim’s return to Los Angeles, I rented a house nearby. Pam was all set to move in with me until I stipulated she could no longer see Jim. How naive of me. I realized I had underestimated her. And as a result, I lost her love."

“Everyone else I knew was just Orange County, run-of-the-mill people,” Annette Burden says, “but I thought Pamela was absolutely great! She was a wild one and just had a wonderful sense of style and adventure, with this spark that was so exciting and fun.” Annette also remembers being enthralled by Pamela’s acerbic wit. “I adored her wry sense of humor. To me she had the appeal of Dorothy Parker—incredibly quick witted, intelligent, observant, cynical, and oozing disdain.” She laughs at the memory of it. “She sort of talked out of the side of her mouth a little bit, like she was doing an aside. She’d make some really hilarious snide comment and her mouth would hardly move.” In an early review of The Doors for the UCLA Daily Bruin, Bill Kerby wrote of Jim Morrison, “He has more natural disdain, more utter contempt for his surroundings than anyone I have ever known. But when he stands, throttling his microphone, staggering blindly across the stage, electric, on fire, screaming, his is all there, waiting, daring, terrified, and alone.” Robby Krieger: “At first we were good buddies, but then when Jim started drinking a lot I just couldn’t hang out with him anymore. It became much more of just a working relationship. We’d really only see each other if we were doing a concert or rehearsing or recording. Our relationship just wasn’t the same by the end of 1968.”

Paul Rothchild observed that Pamela wouldn’t hesitate to jerk Jim back into line if his behavior became too outrageous. “That was fun for him because very few people were willing to go on the offensive with him. I guess he liked that about her. She just had enough guts to go on the offensive.” “Pamela said something to me in Paris that I never forgot,” says Bill Siddons (during the days following Jim’s death). “She said, ‘There were people who pretended to be close to Jim, but I was the only one who had the nerve to stand up to him.’” Bill immediately recognized the truth in her statement. “All the rest of us just kind of went, ‘Okay Jim, we’ll work around it.’ But Pamela didn’t. Pamela just went, ‘Fuck you, buddy! You’d better do this!’ She screamed and yelled and jumped up and down and didn’t take any guff from him. So inevitably he went back to her.” There has been some controversy over the years caused by Max Fink’s later stating that he never drew up a will for Jim, but Paul Ferrara remembers otherwise. Says Ferrara of Fink's unreliable memory, “I can’t imagine that Max said that he never did this unless he was losing his mind!” Ferrara also doesn’t understand the speculation that Jim would not have excluded others from his estate. “Pam was the all-inclusive person he would leave anything he had to,” says Ferrara. “Nobody else was really warranted giving anything to. I do believe that his will was intended to make Pam happy. And to prove to her that he did love her.”

Ray Manzarek: Oliver Stone had a lot of grudges and a lot of axes to grind. I read the script and I said this is not Jim Morrison. He’s much more intelligent than you make him out to be and I am not going to have anything to do with it. I walked out on the whole production. Oliver Stone’s movie makes Jim out to be an alcoholic weirdo, totally out of control, and you never see the intellectual side of Jim Morrison. You never see the wit, the charm, the elegance. You see a crazed Jim Morrison. Don’t forget the next movie Oliver Stone made after The Doors? Natural Born Killers. He started off with the idea for Natural Born Killers and turned into The Doors movie. Even the film’s co-producer Bill Graham admits: “Oliver definitely leaned on the excessive aspects of Jim and did not show to the same extent the private side of Jim. Unfortunately Oliver’s desire was to show what happens to a man when he lets his Frankenstein take over and I was troubled by that if I’m going to be honest with you.” Patricia Kennealy retold her story in Strange Days - her tone throughout is angry, venomous, and defensive (Morrison had needled her at The Phone Booth about her being a closeted lesbian). But she hedged about some of her bizarre claims by writing that she might have hallucinated the whole thing. She admitted that she was high on marijuana, cocaine, and tranquilizers during the period in question of her affair with Jim. According to Mirandi Babitz, “Jim and Pamela were just always talking about death, they talked about dying together”.  —"A History of the 27 Club: Jim Morrison" (2015) by Howard Sounes

Gen-Xers (and Gen-Yers) were presented with what can be perhaps be considered the most perfect romance of the decade: Natural Born Killers. Mickey and Mallory Knox loved more intensely than any of us could have possibly hoped to. More than anything – and the reason the film struck such a powerful chord with its many fans – NBK was a love story. Mickey and Mallory Knox were not just energetic psychopaths. They were lovers first. They loved so intensely, they transcended morality and decency. They burned hotly and passionately, deliberately hoping that their fire would destroy the world around them. Mickey and Mallory turned our desire for chaos into a coherent adoration. NBK originally ended with Mickey and Mallory's guardian angel Owen declaring himself as being "from the fire" and killing the two in the film's final moments. While this would seem to be the more logical ending from a screenwriting 101 point of view- we've had our fun but these characters are monsters and need to be punished- the revised "happier" ending actually tells a darker and more poignant story. For the real evil here is not the actions of two fictional mass murderers but rather our own tendency to spotlight and glorify the ugliness in the world. Mickey and Mallory are left alive not to give us a happy ending but to tell us that we as a culture are responsible for giving them life in the first place. Source:

Mickey (thinking of Mallory): “At night, I pretend you're lying next to me. I lie in my cell... I imagine kissing you, not making love, just kissing for hours and hours on end. I remember everything about our time. I remember every secret you ever shared. I remember every single time you laughed... and your dancing. Oh my God, your dancing. I lie on my bed and go over every day,  every minute of our happiness. I take it all as it comes, and I live that day again. That way, when I get to our first kiss, they're not just memories. I feel that joy again.” —Natural Born Killers (1991) directed by Oliver Stone   

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