Real men don’t eat quiche. Big boys don’t cry. And real men definitely don’t ask for directions.
The cultural stereotypes about what makes a man a man are plentiful in popular culture — and in the United States, that means Hollywood. Some are obvious, while others are more subtle. Most stereotypes create a myth about the “appropriate” behavior of “real men” that leaves both the men, and the women who love them (or work with them), confused about who really lives underneath the unrealistic mask of the macho, controlled, unemotional, holding-it-all together man.
In an effort to shine a light on the lives of real men, the Princeton Public Library, in association with the Arts Council of Princeton, presents a monthly film series, “Real Men/Reel Men: Beyond the Macho Myth.” Screenings take place on the first Wednesday of the month, through June. Next up:
A follow-up to last year’s highly successful “Real Life/Reel Life: Women of a Certain Age” program at the library, the “Reel Men” series includes both American and foreign language films, all focusing on non-stereotypical men — and their relationships.
The original program is the brainchild of Kay Klotzberger, a Princeton Township resident and freelance producer. She is also the president of the Silver Century Foundation, a foundation dedicated to the issues of aging in our society.
Klotzberger was born in California, but “we moved twelve different times — the dominant influence in my life was Midwestern WASP,” she says. Klotzberger’s mother was a homemaker and her father worked in the automotive industry. “It was a Horatio Alger story; he started on the assembly line and worked himself up to executive VP. He was there (at work) the day he had a heart attack and died at 58.” After high school, Klotzberger earned a degree at Michigan State in communication arts with an emphasis in film and then a masters and doctorate in political science at NYU.
After working in academic administration for the City University in affirmative action for over 10 years, Klotzberger took on the newly formed position of running the commission on the status of women there.
She left the City University system to create an independent management training firm. After a short time, Klotzberger left the partnership to go off on her own, combining her old love of film from her undergraduate days with her interest in women’s issues by developing Page One Productions. “I’d do research on true stories about women that were compelling and I’d go out (to L.A.) and try to find financial backing to turn them into movies for television.” Now, she says, “the TV movie isn’t popular anymore,” and Klotzberger has forged a new path for herself once again with the Silver Century Foundation.
“I knew I couldn’t put it on in my living room,” she says of the film series she envisioned, so Klotzberger took the idea to a friend at the Arts Council of Princeton, telling her she wanted to explore the lives of older women (or “women of a certain age”) through film. The friend called the library and the first film series was born.
The Arts Council and the library put together a committee that consisted of Klotzberger; Susan Roth, readers’ services and programming coordinator at the library; Janet Stern, program director at the Arts Council; Marilyn Campbell, a film historian and editor at Rutgers University Press, and Marion Pollack, a therapist, to select films for the series. Klotzbergers’s newly formed foundation provided the bulk of the funding.
Because the “Women of a Certain Age” series was so popular, Susan Roth says “we thought it would be interesting to do it again and focus on men.” There were no men on the selection committee, and although Roth says the irony of it was clear to everyone, the original committee worked well together so they decided to keep it as it was.
Each film in “Real Men/Reel Men” series will be introduced by a member of the committee, and Pollack will lead the post-film discussions. “We’d like to increase the awareness of the emotional power of dealing with the basic issues (raised in the films),” says Roth. “We’re not expecting that people will come to resolution with a series of films, but we hope they will become more aware of the issues. These films don’t look at things simplistically.”
“Ulee’s Gold” stars Peter Fonda as a reclusive beekeeper who is raising his two adolescent granddaughters, the children of his drug-addicted daughter. “In terms of dispelling the male macho myth,” says Pollack via E-mail, “we have a complex character apparently withdrawn and depressed. Ulee’s character peels off layers as he confronts his life, eventually accepting that which he rejected before and emerging a whole person. A sensitive Vietnam vet, Ulee, unlike some vets who love their guns, never wants to see a gun again.”
The series rounds out with three foreign films. “Shower,” on April 6, is a Chinese film, centers on the story of a successful businessman who returns to Beijing, his birthplace — where his ill father and mentally challenged brother are running the family business — to take stock of the future.
“Time Out,” on May 4, is a French film that tells the story of a recently fired businessman who is shamed into living a complex lie to keep the fact hidden from his friends and family.
“Man on the Train,” on June 1, is also a French film, which depicts the story of an aging criminal and a retired school teacher who become friends, and each wonders if he would have been better suited to the other’s way of life.
“We ask the audience to relate to the characters,” says Pollack of the post-screening discussions. “They offer opinions and stories of their own. We try to create a friendly, nonjudgmental atmosphere. By gaining depth of understanding of the characters we hope to take a look at ourselves, at our relationships, and life struggles.”
The selection committee is already talking about another series, but Klotzberg is not ready to divulge the themes being tossed around. Whether it’s older women, or men seeking direction (or directions), “I want the full range of society to be visible.”
Real Men/Reel Men: Beyond the Macho Myth, film series, Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, Community Room. 609-924-9529, ext. 257. Free.
March 2, “Ulee’s Gold” with Peter Fonda and Patricia Richardson; April 6, “Shower” (Chinese with English subtitles); May 4, “Time Out” (French with English subtitles); June 1, “Man on a Train” (French with English subtitles).