Of Men and Angels
By Rod Van Mechelen
I wonder why I feel so high
Though I am not above the sorrow
Till you call my name
Sophie B. Hawkins, As I Lay Me Down
She is an angel no more, but as he is a man so she is a woman.
1995 Bellevue, WA - Several years ago, sometime in the late 1980s, a movie made headlines not so much for how good it was as for how good it was despite being so bad.
Date With An Angel opened to very mixed reviews. Some said it was reminiscent of Frank Capra movies; that it reminded them of It's a Wonderful Life. Others were not so kind, condemning it as sexist, boorish and bad. I did not go see it.
One lazy afternoon (this was long before I began my "career" as a publisher) while channel surfing, I chanced upon it. The beginning was almost like science fiction, so I paused to watch. And kept on watching.
A Life of Quiet Desperation
The premise was thin, there was nothing to like about the antagonists, and the "angel" seemed to have been chosen more for her ample bosom and ability to look dumb than anything else. The main male character's best friends were a constant distraction from Phoebe Cate's surprisingly strong comedic performance as the protagonist's fiancée, and that seemed to be just about all the film had to commend itself. Still, I found myself sympathizing with the protagonist.
He was a romantic. A composer whose vision was to fill the world with gentle music. Rather than follow his dream, however, he was preparing to "sell out" while his ineffectual and all but invisible father stood by, and go to work for his fiancée’s father as a salesman to satisfy her expectations, and to be the success his mother wanted him to be. And it was killing him.
In the middle of the frantic and gleeful celebration to commemorate his spiritual death, the "angel" crashes the party, where she finds him full of doubts, a creeping apathy, a longing to hold on to his dreams and a need to be loved for himself.
An Allegory for Our Time
Slowly, it dawned on me -- what could be a more fitting allegory for our time from the male perspective than this? Struggling to do right by others, a man clings with a weakening grip to the truth within. All the others around him -- resentful feminists, domineering bullies, the narcissistic "liberated" women, cynical media, the punctilious law and the harmless but boorish "guys" -- are indifferent to his pain. All but the angel, who epitomizes the idealized feminine principal.
Warrior, King, Magician, Green Man, I'm not into all that mythopoetic stuff, but I understand the icons and principals. How we distill the essence of what is expected of us by our evolved roles into one for you because you're a woman and one for me because I'm a man, how this damages us when we hold the principals too far apart, or enervates us when we become overzealous in our efforts to make no unnecessary differences, and so make no differences at all.
Have We Lost What is Already Fine and Fierce?
There are differences. We know it. Scientists know it. Parents know it. Even the feminists at Ms. have admitted they know it. But in our hurry to reconstruct a finer masculine and a fiercer feminine, have we lost sight of what is already fine and fierce in the essence of each?
Our masculinity is dying. While everyone argues either over his impoverished spiritual estate, or the angel placed high upon her pedestal, he collapses to the ground. Out of the dark blue of night, the angel appears in a tearful rage to drive the away the tumultuous rabble and call attention to his still form. Contrite, they take him to the hospital where the doctors predict his imminent demise.
Despondently, they leave him alone and the angel appears. Taking him into her arms and embracing him in wings of love, she sings a poignant prayer. Revived, he awakens to find she has stepped down from her high pedestal. She is an angel no more, but as he is a man so she is a woman and together they are whole.
Sophie B. Hawkins hit, As I Lay Me Down, got me to thinking about Angel, of what it says about our time, and of what we need to make our humanity whole.
2013 Olympia, WA - In Heroes - Season One the theme that became a joke was the line, "Save the cheerleader, save the world."
Today, cheerleading is a competitive sport, but before the second-wave feminsts began to deconstruct our culture and claw everything that was good about masculinity into a bleeding rag, cheerleading was about building people up. It was one of the essential traits of good leadership.
We could use some of that old-time cheerleading, again. Not to pump up the egos of obnoxious goons, but to cultivate, nurture and raise up the best that each and every one of us have to offer. Not the sneering kind that admonishes men to molest their inner child so they can be less masculine and more feminine, but that evokes the best of our very essence.
We need those who use "tough love" or "ethics presence" or otherwise set standards; but in the end saving the cheerleaders may, indeed, save our world.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective, and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com and Cowlitz Country News. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.