The (televisual) crisis of man

You may have seen the scene on TV or heard about it. A high school teacher loses his pedals and spouts nonsense at his students in the first episode of Happiness, at TVA. He delivers the depths of his thoughts to these “precious little treasures”, “imbeciles” who no longer know how to give the word horse in the plural and “would like to decide the sex of the chairs”.

We underlined the humor of this skidding rule, played with memorable intensity by Michel Charette. But we especially remembered one side of the coin. The one who represents today’s teenagers as “the dumbest generation the earth has ever known.” A generation that would like a highway to be able to determine for itself the determinants and appropriate pronouns to designate it. “It’s his choice,” said one student.





The monomaniacs of “wokism” chuckled with pleasure at the evocation of this deliberately crude caricature of today’s youth. Perhaps because they recognized themselves in the speech of this exasperated teacher, in the midst of a nervous breakdown. And that they place some value on it.

What has been less noted – the other side of the coin – is the way in which the authors (François Avard and Daniel Gagnon) have at the same time, in the same scene and the same speech, illustrated in an equally caricatured way the contempt and incomprehension of a representative of Generation X for Generation Z.

François Plante, played by Michel Charette, seems resistant to the idea of ​​changing his thinking and recognizing the slightest claim of minority groups. The new spelling causes him to faint. We dare not imagine what the presence in his class of a transgender student would provoke in him. Don’t talk to him about epicene writing, it will finish him off.

That the commentators have especially retained the portrait painted of a youth raised in the wad of claiming to the absurd says a lot about our relationship with fictional characters and on those who write TV series. Many see a teacher losing control insult minors, violently overturn their desks… and say to themselves: “It’s true that young people are heavy. ”

Where to start ?

Whether they like it or not, with this comic scene that perpetuates new stereotypes, Avard and Gagnon participate in this heavy tendency of television, here as elsewhere, to present the man – especially the heterosexual white man in the middle of the life – like a victim.

A victim of those around him, of his society, of youth awakened to inequalities, of feminists or of minority and marginalized groups.

Like this François Plante, secondary school teacher who resigned from Happiness, who feels that he can no longer say anything because of the young “iels”. Or this Christian (Christian Bégin), suspended university professor of Guys, who feels like he can’t do anything anymore because he has to attend a consent workshop (which he makes fun of), due to an affair with a student who is 30 years younger than him.

They have in common to be in their fifties and to find laughable those who, in all kinds of ways, sometimes exaggerated and clumsy, challenge the established order. And who no longer simply accept the “it’s like that because it’s always been like that” of those in a position of authority.

I notice that there are several male characters on TV (American too) who spend a lot of energy trying not to look like uncles … while regretting the not so distant time when they could give free rein. to their inner monuncle without fear of the slightest reprisals.

“Men are afraid of dying from two things: colon cancer and societal changes! », Says the young character played by Selena Gomez to his two baby-boomer neighbors in the very entertaining series of Disney + Only Murders in the Building.

The white man of a certain age would be in disarray and losing his bearings, if we are to believe the TV, which constantly reflects this image to us, and in an even clearer way for a few years.

I was talking about it this week with Stéfany Boisvert, herself a professor specializing in television at UQAM’s Media School, on the program We will say what we want on Radio-Canada radio.

We can no longer count the male characters who have the impression that the carpet is slipping under their feet and who fear losing their place and their enviable achievements in society, with the panoply of “woke injunctions” of the younger generations and the “Revenge speech” (trademark) of feminists worthy of “Big Mother”, which prevent them from going around in circles. Either way, they don’t know which way to dance any more.

They believe that the return of the pendulum – towards more parity, more diversity, more equality – is above all an injustice towards them. A threat to the privileges they hold, but refuse to recognize. We come back to it again and again.

Why do we hear this talk so much on TV? Notably because it is widely covered by the media, trendy and popular with the public and screenwriters, both aging. It is, in short, the dominant perspective. However, this representation of masculinity in crisis, victim of the claims of recent decades, would be a generalization heavy with meaning, believes Stéfany Boisvert.

“It’s a discourse that sometimes has anti-feminist overtones,” she says.

It is a speech that aims to say that straight white cis men would be the big losers in social transformations.

Stéfany Boisvert, professor at the School of Media at UQAM

“Somehow, it’s like saying that feminism or civil rights movements have gone too far. It is also, she believes, a way of making invisible the difficulties, the forms of discrimination and marginalization of which minority groups (racialized men or the LGBTQ + community, for example) are victims. “As if we said that everything is going well for everyone… except for the men.” ”

Which, we will agree, is far from being a reflection of reality.

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