Wednesday, March 25, 2015

So You're Writing An Article About Modern Man

You are a man and you have decided, or been commissioned by a desperate editor with two pages to fill, to write a thinkpiece about ‘the new man’. Who is the modern man? What does he think? What does he wear? What beer does he drink and why? Congratulations! You are about to add to a rich and storied genre, whose practitioners’ aggregate Pulitzer count is through the roof. Here are some helpful tips to assist you in writing this era-defining piece:

1. Give a brief precis of the history of modern man. This can go back to the 80s, or the 60s if you are determined to be exceptionally rigorous. Mention the swinging sixties and Mick Jagger, of if you are starting your history in the 80s, talk about yuppies and Magnum P.I. Then seamlessly guide us through to the present day. Feel free to mention any or all of the following:
Nuts Magazine
Paul Gascoigne’s tears at Italia 90
David Beckham
Mad Men

2. Coin a new portmanteau for the bullshit phenomenon you are purporting to describe in your article. The king of all these words is ‘metrosexual’, which means tit-all but has stuck and is therefore dynamite. ‘Retrosexual’ doesn’t mean anything either and it rhymes with the King Word, but I’m afraid it’s already taken. Still up for grabs: “Letterosexual”; “”Betterosexual”; “Hypotheterosexual”. Go for it!

3. The phenomenon that you are pretending to notice must be anchored in zeitgeisty events. Be sure to namecheck any of the following: a recent X-Factor finalist who dresses a certain way; somebody from a popular TV show (think HBO or Netflix); an up-and-coming politician who tells it like it really is; a cult Twitter user.

4. There are only two directions this article can go, but don’t let that discourage you. It’s been written hundreds of times before and can be written again. One direction is: “men are becoming more masculine again after a disturbing feminisation period”. The other direction is: “men are becoming more feminine”.

5. Pepper your article liberally with  wordplay on man stuff. “Manorexic” always goes down a treat, but also splash out on “mangry”, “mangst”, “he-roes”, “men-tal health” and “dick-ay”.

6. Have you mentioned David Beckham yet? For god’s sake mention David Beckham.

7. Remember, this isn’t an article about gay men.

8. Whisper it: it’s not really about men of colour. (You may want to code this into your article a bit more subtly than your total leaving-out of the gays, which you can justify because people don’t think of gays as real men.) Interviewees for this article should be called Steve, John or Michael, not Olatunde.

9. Chuck in some interviewees: they must be men of the people, who tell you about their real lives. You can completely make these men up. Steve should be 28, John 33 and Michael 41. They are respectively single, engaged, and married with children. Their completely made-up jobs are: graphic designer, TV executive and architect. In their made-up quotes, have them mention their wives and girlfriends in order to make clear that they are straight. I repeat: don’t mention any queer guys, that could really sink this very important article.

10. Add an interview with a charlatan/published sociologist. She (!) should be called Chloe Kiriakou or Gemma Shayston, and the bullshit book she published last year should be called something like: “Having It All: Why Men Are Left Holding The Baby”, or “Adam’s Pear”, or “You’re A Big Boy Now: Peter-Man in the Wendy House”. Chloe or Gemma will tell you something about modern man - not a scientific fact, but a hugely generalised opinion based 100% on conjecture - that you will print verbatim as gospel. Ask her for another soundbite in paragraph 10. Hopefully she’ll mention David Beckham if you haven’t already (but really, you must mention David Beckham).

11. Interview another person, who unlike Chloe or Gemma isn’t an expert, but is half famous. Maybe a music producer. Where do they go on holiday? Cuba? Well, that says it all: weave it into your theory about modern man.

12: This is the point in the article where you mention women, in order to make clear that you’re not an arsehole. Some foolish people will be wondering if it’s at all appropriate to be writing a thinkpiece about the plight of men these days, when women are thoroughly dominated in all walks of life. Assuage the doubts of these simple folk by saying something like, “Of course, a lot of men have it easy compared to women when it comes to childcare - but…” or “Competition for jobs is fierce, with many women now going for top positions too.” That should do it.

13. Fashion! You haven’t mentioned clothes. Add something about a designer. Can you think of a straight designer? No? Go with Burberry.

14. It's time for a long bit on facial hair. What way have you determined that modern man is going - the masculine route or the feminine? If the former, mention some people with beards in a trendy part of town and a model who, weirdly, has a beard; if the latter, talk about the new clean-shaven man you can see everywhere from Eastenders to the Oscars. Both these sorts of man exist at the same time, don't worry, you'll be able to name loads.

15. Start summing up. Envision a future for your new phenomenon. Will your completely made-up brand of new man last a long time, or is he destined to die out come the new wave of [HBO shows, X-Factor finalists]? Predict a long reign for your creation. The Letterosexual, you will let us gather, is here to stay.

16. You’ve finished your bravura trend piece. It’s time to send it to the editor with a request to illustrate it with a large photo of a generic man looking at himself sadly in the mirror, plus smaller pictures of assorted Hollywood actors, singers and recent causes celebres.

17. Pick a headline for your piece. “Rise of the [bullshit category]” is good.