There are many stereotypes of what it means to be masculine: tough, stoic and aggressive are some of the ideas that we, as a society, have about what masculinity is. These characteristics of what is known as hegemonic masculinity, create pressures for men to conform, and if they do not, they are then shamed by society for not being masculine enough. The there is no denying that the media is the largest contributor to reinforce these ideals, and one of the largest media mediums is television, as people’s intake of television is a daily occurrence. In this paper, I will discuss these hegemonic ideas that are present in our society, focusing on the character of Bellamy Blake from the popular television show the 100 in its first season, and examine how these harmful ideas of masculinity will affect the men, especially the young and impressionable men, that watch this show, and warp their ideas of what masculinity is supposed to look like.
Hegemonic Masculinity and Why It’s Harmful for Men
The definition of hegemonic masculinity is “the mythology of gender dominant within cultural representations of males, reflecting normative behavioural ideals for males in a culture in a particular period (regardless of the actual prevalence of such behaviour in that society). Such representations promote stereotypical masculine heterosexual value” (Oxford Reference). In short, hegemonic masculinity is a mentality that men must follow in order to be a ‘true’ man. According to our society, they need to be strong, powerful and macho in order to be considered a true masculine man. These ideas create pressure for men, as they feel they need to act in this way, so that their masculinity does not come into question. According to Kaufman, “masculinity is power, but is terribly fragile, because it really does not exist in the sense that we think that it exists, that is to say, like a biological reality that is within us, but is just an ideology” (141). Kaufman’s idea of masculinity being fragile is a correct statement, as men fear they are constantly being scrutinized, and become defensive if someone does question their masculinity. This idea is not the fault of men, but a reflection of how society can harm its members with their impossible expectations.
Masculinity and Bellamy Blake
The popular CW television show the 100 is about one hundred troubled teens who are sent back down to earth after an apocalypse almost one hundred years later. Undoubtedly, these teen are bound to be at odd without each other, and disagree on the way to co-exist with each other. Bellamy Blake, immediately stands out, as he begins to take over the leadership position among the other teens. In the clip below, he immediately takes over the reins and says and does what he wants, and does not care what anyone else has to say. Based on this clip and the picture below, it is clear that Bellamy fits within the hegemonic masculine stereotype: he tall, muscular, strong, and appears powerful. It is clear that he has succumb to the pressures to present this idealistic view of hegemonic masculinity, which is seen through the sentiments of his speech.
Masculinity, Power and Lack of Agency
When it comes to the gender stereotypes of men and also women, there is no flexibility when it comes to their supposed roles within society. According to Erving Goffman, “this analysis has implications for discussion of agency. It follows that selves cannot fashion themselves according to their whim as frames and felicity constitute constraining social contexts within which actions and interactions, and understandings and renegotiations of these must take place” (Goffman 8). With these strict guidelines for both genders, it is obvious that there is no freedom for them to truly be themselves without having the pressures to live up to certain standards. This lack of freedom also creates this dilemma for men, as they use power trips to compensate for their lack of agency. They are powerless in their identity, but can put forth a power front. Due to this, men, take on this huge responsibility to exert a certain level of power over people, especially if they are leaders, and that idea is the main conflict within masculinity. According to George L. Mosse, “the needs of society, nationalism, and the process of stereotyping all contributed to the fact that despite its challenges the history of modern masculinity lacks dramatic tension” (78). He is implying that when it comes to masculinity, there is not much drama in the sense that men are not fighting with each other, but with the ideals of society and themselves. To show masculinity and power is simply a battle between ones true identity and societies identity. In the case of Bellamy, in the beginning of the series is presenting the hegemonic version of male power, which is present in this clip below.
The way fact that he walks out of the tent shirtless, with his hoister protruding prominently around his waist, shows that he is presenting the aggressive, alpha male stereotype. Also the way he condescendingly kisses the girl he obviously spent the night with, presents this competitive energy where he wants everyone to know that he is in charge. Not only is the way that he appears aggressive, the way he is speaking also asserts a level of condescension that presents a dominant authority. Additionally, the fact that he seems to have others who closely follow his rulings, such as the guy originally trying to take the clothing, adds to the power trip he is on. It is clear that Bellamy is presenting this front to conform to what his society has taught him powerful males are supposed to act. He has no agency of his own, as he is trying to live up to the hegemonic standard that exists.
Masculinity, Upbringing and Social Class
According to David Morgan, “class is one of a number of social hierarchies or systems of social stratification that have represented core elements in social analysis” (165). He also says that, “class stratification is seen as the form most associated with industrial and capitalist societies” (Morgan 166). There is no question that these ideas exist within our society, as people are judged based on their appearance and the amount of money they make. For Bellamy, his social status and past greatly affects the leader is in the beginning of the show. In this clip below, it shows Bellamy help his Mother birth his sister, named Octavia, at a young age, as having more than one child is forbidden on the ark, and had a doctor come his mother would have been killed.
Bellamy took his Mother’s words of “your sister, your responsibility” very seriously, and impacted every decision he made from that moment. In fact, Bellamy technically should not have come down to earth with the teens, as he is not a criminal, but he made a deal with someone in the guard so that he could go down and protect his sister Since Octavia’s birth is forbidden, she was forced to hide under the floor for her entire life, and Bellamy had to care for her. Due to his immense love for his sister, he allowed her out to attend a ball one night, and she ended up getting caught by the ark’s guards, causing her to be put in prison, and his Mother’s death. In clip below (1:13-1:53), it shows that Bellamy is the janitor of the ark, which is considered to be a very low position. Bellamy’s past greatly influenced his leadership when they reached earth. He feels anger towards his standing in society, and the hardships that he has had to face. Due to these factors, when he came down to earth, he made sure that he maintained a leadership position so that he would not have to face the same pain he did while on the ark. He has channelled his anger and resentment towards the ark and the guards, and put it into his leadership. Seeing the way that Bellamy’s social class has shaped the way he presents this version of hegemonic masculinity, shows that a lot of the ways people interpret their supposed gender roles, is based on how societies views them and their social class. In Bellamy’s case, his social class shaped him into acting as an overly alpha male, and being resentful towards his society for making him that way.
The Male Audience and the 100
Through the way that Bellamy acts in the show, can influence the way that men, especially young and impressionable men, act in their everyday lives. According to and article entitled Communication and Society: Active Audience?: interaction of young people with television and online video content, “users nowadays have a greater ability to interact with the media thanks to the relatively easy use of technology and to advances in technological connectivity. In this setting, in which the audience carries out other kinds of activities that go beyond pure reception” (Aqirre, Arrizabalaga, Espilla 134). Due to expansion of media, television has become a major source of intake for many people, especially young people, and because of this it has become influential in their lives. What they see represented on television will affect the way that they view situations in their real like. Due to this, the way that young men see Bellamy acting in this regard can influence the way that they act as well. In this case
George L Mosse states, “in our time stereotypes have become the equivalent of a negative judgement; it is those marginalized by society who are said to be stereotyped” (6). This statement could not be more true in the context of hegemonic masculinity; the masculine stereotype creates a negative expectation for men to live up to, and in most cases this creates stress for men. Throughout the examination of Bellamy’s character, it is obvious that the stress of conforming to hegemonic masculinity affects the way one acts around others. Through his social class, upbringing and lack of agency, it is evident that Bellamy is experiencing the tribulations of navigating through idealistic male expectations.
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.
Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities, edited by Michael S. Kimmel, et al., SAGE Publications, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=996487
Mosse, George L.. The Image of Man : The Creation of Modern Masculinity, Oxford University Press, 1998. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/lib/ryerson/detail.action?docID=2012870.
Oxford Reference. Hegemonic Masculinity. Oxford University Press. 2018.http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095928286
Agirre, I. A., Arrizabalaga, A. P., & Espilla, A. Z. (2016). Active audience?: Interaction of young people with television and online video content.Comunicación y Sociedad, 29(3), 133-147. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.15581/003.29.3.133-147
Being Amna. “Whatever The Hell We Want”. Video on Youtube. 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD5mxffn0ac
Megan Antle. “Shirtless Bellamy”. Video on Youtube. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtKpUfUPQdM
Being Amna. “Bellamy & Octavia – 1×06- Part 1 “I won’t let anything bad happen to you”. Video on Youtube. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1KE0g8ix5A
Being Amna. “Bellamy & Octavia – 1×06 – Part 5 “You’re Okay”. Videos on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I80IDdCdI9s