Q&A: Why Do My Boys (And My Husband) Like Such Dumb Entertainment?
It’s one of those mysteries between the sexes – what makes our choices of entertainment so different?
Wives and mothers shake their heads over boys’ choices of movies, videos, books, and so on. To their thinking, so much of it is just stupid. And it’s not simply childishness – dads and husbands are laughing too.
Why is there such a thing as “guy humor”?
Some “guy humor,” I think, is simply regressive behavior — “I’ll make digestive noises if I feel like it!” You know the sort. And some is nothing more than flirting with (or diving into) indecency — we don’t make a defense for that.
But for the innocent stupid stuff which seems to perplex wives and mothers, I have a theory. I think its humor, at least to males, comes from the roles men are expected to play.
For instance, before we consider comedy, consider the other sort of entertainment that attracts guys. What do guys seem to gravitate toward? What seems to be aimed at a male mindset?
How about action movies? Westerns, law-and-order shows, sci-fi thrillers, and adventure. There are common themes to all of these – power, for one. Courage. Determination. Men like to watch stories of strong men taking decisive action. Superhero movies, the Star Wars saga, war movies, movies about voyages and exploration – they all focus on men placed in dangerous and threatening situations, then rising to the occasion with courage, strength, and boldness. Sometimes it’s a coming-of-age or discovery situation, where the weakling at the beginning finds unexpected strength and virtue at the climax. Sometimes it’s a redemption story, where the bad guy is brought to repentance and reformation. There are all kinds of strength and courage, after all!
Consider that the courageous, selfless, disciplined use of strength is something praised by Scripture. Think of how the Old Testament praises the righteous courage of young David confronting the giant; lists the mighty men who served under David’s command; holds up the zeal of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in Babylon; and the apostle Paul even tells the church in Corinth, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV – footnote here).
That sort of strength and courage (both physical and moral courage) is not exclusive to men, but it’s characteristic of the best men.
But what about the admittedly dumb sort of guy humor? I think it may be from another aspect of our maleness in this fallen world.
What happened when Adam turned away from God’s commandment and brought all of Creation down to a state of brokenness?
Then to Adam He [God] said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:17-19 NKJV)
Part of the curse for Adam and every son of Adam, is that the unavoidable, necessary work which occupies so much of a man’s daily life will be marked by toil, suffering, and frustration. He is called to work, to create, to provide for his family and others, and yet because of sin, it’s become a struggle rather than a simple joy. He’ll work hard for the basic needs of life, but too often it will be unproductive, the earth with yield unusable fruit, and in one sense, it will consume him in the end. (That’s hard stuff, but sin is that bad … and worse.) The Bible talks much about futility in our fallen world – and we all experience it!
And just as men are attracted to movies about brave men who wield strength and power – because one day, each of us hopes to be hero-material ourselves – it could be that men identify with the dumb comedies because the daily business of life is seldom heroic but frequently absurd. Who hasn’t worked at a job that surrounded him with incompetent co-workers, malevolent petty-tyrant bosses, tools which fail, pipes which rupture, and unexpected jets of steam which inflate our clothing? (Well, maybe not so much the latter – not since I left the paper mill.)
Someone said we laugh because otherwise we’d have to cry. And the stupid comedies which show the idiot coping with ridiculous situations, or the one smart guy dumped into a world of dummies, or the arrogant blowhard who gets the pie-in-the-face treatment or falls into the septic tank or eats the hot peppers by mistake … these absurdities may just be projections of the frustrating life that every man has to engage.
One day, there will be no more slapstick – because there will be no more conflict, no more frustration, no more incompetence! There may be coconut creme pies, that’s possible, but we’ll have better manners then. For now, though, the dumb comedies remind us not to take ourselves too seriously–after all, there are banana peels all around.
Footnote: Different translations render this differently – the KJV, ESV, and NASB all read the word andrizomai as “act like or behave like men,” while the NKJV says “be brave” and the NIV and RSV say “be courageous.” My limited knowledge of Greek suggests that since it is a verb which comes from a noun for “man” (aner) it may be fair to think of it as a call to “man up”!
What part does heroism, adventure, and ambition play in your son’s life? Is there a serious side of play? Are you comfortable with the competitive, rough-and-tumble world your boys naturally inhabit? And even if you get it, are you comfortable explaining it to others? We think there are Biblical reasons for all of these things, and we start from Biblical principles and examples and take them to practical application for modern families. Check out a sample chapter or go ahead and order your own copy of our award-winning book, Raising Real Men — see below!