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Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231144315
ISBN-10: 0231144318
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cross, a professor of history at Penn State University, seeks the contemporary social puzzle of why men are refusing to grow up and commit to marriage and family. With declining marriage statistics, Cross (The Cute and the Cool) explains that these American boy-men reject the traditional notions of mature masculinity, while opting for vanity and narcissism with a new motto: manhood is play and it never ends. He cites the example of Hugh Hefner's popular concept of childish male wish fulfillment, an empire built on sexually available women, carnal fantasies and eternal playtime. Feminism, extended adolescence and an aggressive media culture promoting conflicting signals about maleness and fatherhood only add to this immaturity trend. Not only does Cross outline the dilemma, but he cites a cure: We must recognize that as adults, and equally as men, we have responsibilities to our partners, families, and communities beyond our own need for experience and pleasure. In this perceptive, eloquent book, Cross concludes that growing-up has never been more difficult in this complicated time. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Gender studies have for so long focused almost exclusively on women that the term is sometimes taken to mean women's studies, a focus that has left a major gap in gender studies courses and texts. These four books represent the most recent attempts to understand men and their role in society.Cross (history, Pennsylvania State Univ.; The Cute and the Cool) posits that men are not acting like adults, but like big kids, pointing out that many men, even into their thirties, play video games, enjoy radio programs such as Howard Stern's, and still live at home with their parents. He uses the term boy-men to describe these males who refuse to grow up and act their age. Although many people in the social sciences will recognize Cross's primary point, his term boy-men seems prone to possible misinterpretation. Nonetheless, Cross provides an interesting take on the history and development of boy-men, which he argues began in the 1950s. He points out that popular TV shows watched by boys in the 1950s and 1960s were child-friendly versions of the Old West, e.g., Gunsmoke, and other examples of watered-down masculinity, e.g., The Courtship of Eddie's Father. He cites Hugh Hefner's playboy, hedonistic, pleasure-seeking persona as the envy of many men who wished simply to live a carefree life and be surrounded by beautiful women. Cross argues that the boy-men of today are basically a product of several generations wherein men were coddled as boys and not expected to take on the responsibilities traditionally associated with adult males.Journalist Garcia (The New Mainstream) argues that men's role in society has become compromised as women continue to make huge strides in many social spheres, including employment and education. With their traditional role as breadwinner taken away from them, men are less sure about their place. As a result, Garcia argues, young men have formed and embraced a "Jackass culture" that keeps men in a perpetual spring-break mode.Kimmel (sociology, SUNY, Stony Brook; Manhood in America) puts forth the argument, similar to Cross's, that guys are not growing up and instead are listening to Howard Stern and playing video games, both of which behaviors contribute to the stunting of their maturity. Kimmel's "Guyland" is both a stage of life and the places where men gather to be guys. Kimmel spends time on the "Guy Code," which emphasizes the ways in which men are identified as men, including being emotionless, displaying masculinity whenever possible (e.g., never wearing pink), and remaining loyal to one's male friends.The only woman among these authors, syndicated columnist Parker argues in her antifeminist book that there is a smear campaign against men, especially white men. She believes men are blamed for everything and that if they even look at a woman in a certain way they face harassment charges. She highlights the declining role of men in society by pointing out the gradual eradication of fathers from children's lives (30 to 40 percent of children sleep in a home without their father present), the crisis in educating boys, the need for male elementary teachers, discrimination against men in child custody suits, the gradual feminizing of men in culture, the cultural acceptance of The Vagina Monologues but the denial of the male counterpart, The Penis Monologues, and the "girling" down of the military.The underlying themes of all four books involve the idea that parents have become enablers of their kids' (especially boys') refusal to mature and take on adult responsibilities. Further, as men have confronted the changing role of women, the corresponding concern over what it means to be a man has been lambasted by many in the mainstream. The material found in these books thus goes against politically correct flags. For some, this may be a welcome relief. These accessible books are highly recommended for all libraries because they provoke discussion and keep the conversation on gender alive.—Tim Delaney, SUNY at Oswego
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231144318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231144315
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on October 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is both more and less than I was expecting. "Less," in that I was hoping for a stronger critique -- not to say denunciation -- of today's "boy-men," as author Gary Cross calls them. The arrested-development adults-but-not-grown-ups like the suit-wearing, video game-playing guy in the cover art or, even more appropriate, the men in their forties, or older, who still run around in the same oversized T-shirts, baggy shorts, and huge sneakers as their 12-year-old sons. I was, as I say, hoping to see them called on the carpet somewhat more than they were. That probably says more about me than about Cross.

The area in which "Men to Boys" was more than I expected was in the author's thorough analysis of the archetypes of male adulthood over three generations -- the so-called Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers (the author's own cohort), and my Generation X -- and how "being a man" has evolved since the 1920s and '30s. Cross relies heavily on media portrayals of boys and men, in popular movies and TV shows as well as commercials, but also introduces when appropriate the influence of video games and why they are so powerfully attractive even for adult men.

Indeed, the power of the video game becomes an important signifier, if not explanation, for the "men to boys" phenomenon. As Cross writes, "modern toys have gradually lost their 'expiration dates,' the markers that designate the time that children are expected to abandon them after reaching a new developmental stage. ... their manufacturers design them to blur, even deny this historically essential transition from boyhood to manhood.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By photondn on July 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gary Cross' Men To Boys shows how men have changed in behavior and thinking over generations starting from the mid-1850's to present.

Even though the title is Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity, I am not sure if the book had a distinct answer as to why men are acting like boys. It is like pointing the answer to a body of history and saying that the answer is over there in that direction.

The book is quite dense of media history. I had a difficult time appreciating some of the references to 1940's movies because it was before my time. I had to ask people of older generations to get some ideas.

However, there was one observation I had from the book. It seems that men are becoming more directionless over the generations. In the early generations, men were self-driven to marry and have a family. Now, getting married is not really a necessity.

Another observation from reading this book I had was that gaining experiences are getting cheaper over the generations. In the early generations, men had to work hard because life was hard. Gaining experiences were not easy. Now, the current generations play games to get their thrills with little physical effort. Whatever camaraderie men had in the early generations to either establish social norms or to help each other in hard times are pretty much not observed in the current generation.

These observations were my own. I don't think the book made these observations.

This was not an easy read. It is quite dense of history and not really a page-turner. If someone is interested in this book, I would recommend watching the movie Gran Torino, read the book, and then watch Gran Torino again. I actually did that. When I watch Gran Torino again, then I finally appreciated this book and better understood the movie.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marc Safran on October 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Basic thesis of the book was clear but examples where so entrenched in personal recollections and media memories that it lost any scientific believability.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book covers three generations of male culture in the U.S. society and how it has affected them to arrive at today's generation of Teen-Age Boys who have been affected by the previous two generations. If you like a bit of history, and are interested in the boys of this generation and how to help them learn and grow, this is the book for you. There are a few others along the same lines which make for much easier reading but this one is more complete than all of the others I've read recently.
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