Sept. 2016

 

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"A stupid son is a grief to a father; and the father of a fool has no joy."
(Proverbs 17:21)

Boys don't want to appear weak, so they express their anger rather than their sadness. When asked what happens when his friend stands him up, a boy in one of my studies says: "I will get mad... but I'm not gonna get mad 'cause he dissed me. I'm gonna get mad 'cause I missed him but I will probably show it to him like I'm mad." Boys tell us, furthermore, that their anger leads them to feel violent.

When I asked a classroom full of 12-year-old boys why Adam Lanza killed the school children in Newtown, Conn., the boys responded by telling me it because he was "lonely" and then preceded to tell me their own stories of feeling lonely or excluded and how angry these experiences made them feel.

My studies also reveal that as boys become men, they grow increasingly isolated and pressured to act like a man in all of its stereotypic connotations of being emotionally stoic, autonomous, and physically tough regardless of the circumstances. It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of tragedies we have been reading about lately are committed by young men between the ages of 16 and 26. These are the ages when loneliness and the cultural pressures to prove one's manhood appear to be at its peak.

Social psychologists such as John Caccioppo have also shown us that social isolation and loneliness can promote anger and a perception that others are threatening or punitive. Experiences such as relocation and discrimination can, furthermore, intensify feelings of isolation. Social psychologist Naomi Eisenberger has revealed that the experience of social rejection stimulates the same area of the brain as physical pain. Sociologist Michael Kimmel and many others have found that the pressures of "manning up" discourages boys and men from seeking help and normalizes violence as a response to sadness and anger. The deadly mix of loneliness, social isolation, and cultural norms of masculinity is suggested not only in research studies. It is also suggested in the "data" we get from the boys involved in such violence. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers accused of being the Boston Marathon bombers, suggested these themes in their posts and tweets. The older brother posts a message that speaks of not having "a single American friend. I don't understand them." The younger brother tweets that he doesn't like it when people ask him "unnecessary questions" such as why he is sad and needs cyanide pills. He also tweets:

"Do I look like that much of a softy? Little do these dogs know that they're barking at a lion," or "I won't run, I'll just gun you all out."

In response to a friend who didn't respond to his text, the younger brother texts:

"Hey, stop ignoring me. Come back. Don't make me suffer alone."

While the younger brother apparently had "close" friends, it is obvious from the simple fact that none of them knew about his inner life that they were not close in the ways that most boys want to be close. Religious fervor may have provided a justification for the brothers' alleged plan, but at its root, their plan reflected a human problem and not a religious one.

The deep secrets of boys and men, according to the research, is that they have the same desire for connection and close friendships as girls and women and that many of our cultural norms of masculinity are hurting rather than helping boys find what they need and want.

Until we expose these secrets and act on what boys are telling us by fostering their genuinely close relationships and changing our definitions of manhood to include their own humanity as well as the humanity of others, we will continue to face the tragic consequences.

(Niobe Way, Why Are Boys So Violent?)

Guest

During the production of Stand by Me, River was constantly there to stand up for me, and he would look out for me. He was the oldest out of the four of us, and he was definitely the coolest. So I looked up to him, and I admired a lot of things about him. And much of what happens on screen mirrors what we had in real life.

We all thought of Stand by Me as an Ansemble piece. Although if you ask Corey Feldman, I am sure he would tell you that he was the star of the movie. I don't think any of us really took the issue of who was the Star very seriously. It had a summer camp feel, and we all played together the way kids do. I think if we were 2 or 3 years older, there could have been some ego involved. There could have been some screen time jealousy and envy going on, the sort of thing you see among adult actors. But we didn't really have that.

Corey Feldman's character is abused by his father in the movie, but strangely, nothing brings out more fire in him when it comes to defending his father.

This is common in the human condition. The abused often defend their abusers, often to their own death. There is a line in the film where Gordie wonders why Teddy would so fiercely defend the guy that beat the shit out of him on a regular basis. People just don't talk about that, which is probably why abusers get away with that kind of thing.

I specially asked Rob Reiner toward the end of the films production, why he cast Corey. Because Corey was really a pain in the ass. Corey was one of those kids that wanted to be famous. It was always, all about him. Everything was excessively dramatic, and really unpleasant at times. Corey would do things during the production of the film that could be very sadistic, driving his knee into the back of my knee to the point where I was in tears. So near the end of the film, I said to Rob, why did you cast this guy...who is so unpleasant to work with?

His answer was that he had seen a lot of actors for the role of Teddy, and Corey was the only actor he saw who had as much anger and rage in him as Teddy. Over the years, I have learned a lot about Corey's life. And his parents were not involved with him while we were filming the movie, he never really had a lot of adult supervision, it was a pretty messed up family situation for him. And it makes a whole bunch of sense to me, that he would have that level of anger, resentment and fury at a parental figure. He gives a magnificent performance in that movie, possibly a career performance.
(Wil Wheaton, Stand by Me, pt. 1)

Host

A lot of the qualities in Gordie Le Chance (from Stand by Me) I had in me. I was shy, I was really, really sensitive, I was really insecure, I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, I felt torn between what I was supposed to be doing, and what I wanted to do. I had tremendous loyalty to my friends. If you looked at every one of us from that movie, our lives, as we've grown up even, have kind of paralelled the lives of our characters. River's character died in that movie, and when I heard that River had died in real life, I wasn't surprised. His addiction, and all the problems he had, with really hard core drug use, were really well known.

River and I had the same kind of aversion to publicity. We just dealt with it in different ways. I dealt with it by playing lots and lots of videogames. And playing role playing games. Sequestering myself indoors and watching the prisoner on videotape for marathons at a time. And River understood, he was wise beyond his years, that a big part of the business of holywood, is to kind of embrace that publicity. And he hated it. And he hated how so many people were paying attention to actors, and were ignoring humanitarian crisis all over the world. And he hated how people were making such a big deal over who he was dating. And nobody cared about poverty in the united states, River hated that. But he knew that he had to embrace holywood and be part of it, to further his career. I think that his attempt to hold two different ideas at once, the reality of business, and his own ideal, became too much for him.

We were extremely close until I was about 15.

We both took the world too seriously for our age, we were both committed to making the best movie that we could possibly make, and we just had a lot of things in common.

When you get a group of kids together, especially young boys around twelve years old, they will quickly identify the weak one. It's the sort of pack behavior, and pick on that kid. And I was the weak one. I was the one who was willing to admit to watching the cartoons that weren't cool anymore, and the rest of them pretended like they didn't. And they would really tease me about it.

During the production of Stand by Me, River was constantly there to stand up for me, and he would look out for me. He was the oldest out of the four of us, and he was definitely the coolest. So I looked up to him, and I admired a lot of things about him. And much of what happens on screen mirrors what we had in real life.

(Wil Wheaton, Stand by Me, pt. 1)