Remember the SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) in college? He was probably a biology major with a minor in religion or women’s studies, played Ultimate Frisbee, respected the earth and wore flannel, lots and lots of flannel. Ahh, the joys of the liberal arts college. Then there was the Red Bull drinking, effing striped shirt wearing MBA or MBA wannabe. To the right person, he too was probably appealing. And then there was the Metrosexual, the reason Mark Jacobs is launching a men’s makeup line. A man who understands that sometimes women know what they are doing, that spas are relaxing and that working out has surface benefits as well as long term health benefits. These are guys who will go to an art opening or watch Real Housewives over a sporting event, because they are that comfortable in their metrosexuality. Following closely on the well-shod heels of the metrosexual is the hipster, but with tighter jeans legs and more irony. Men should never wear jeggings, even ironically.
And now, there is the Fierce Gentleman. (I’m a little behind on male archetypes, I just learned about this one) The site dedicated to this archetype operates with the tag line “Gentlemen + Buddhism + neuroscience.” The content refers frequently to Stanford studies, doctoral learnings and quotes J.S.Mill (yep, that’s how the site refers to him) and targets men who are slowly reclaiming a vision of a better world. “They are filmmakers, poets and economists; ranchers, sculptors and coaches; engineers, designers and teachers; claims adjusters, illustrators, and chefs.” Essentially, it sounds like they are a cross between The Most Interesting Man in the World, Your Carhartt Boyfriend and all those dreamers Kermit sings about in The Rainbow Connection. These men (and their equally Fierce Ladies – no response yet on how Sasha Fierce feels about this coopting. . . ) are going to put the world back in order, as it has slipped greatly and that is negative to all our vibes.
From the site: “Human civilization has been crumbling into dust and irrelevancy, and we’ve been complicit./ As J.S. Mill (Ed’s note – see?) said, all that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to lose their way; and we have lost ours. . . It turns out that the acceleration of technological progress has also inadvertently sped us toward planetary disaster via resource competition. . . It turns out that we will never have peace in the Middle East until we have peace in our relationships.” Anyone else hearing Jon Stewart’s voice saying, “Because Sisi cares whether your wife is happy?”
The message at first is dismal, the world/society/ even manhood is failing. And the only way to save it is by breaking free of addictions, getting the body right, getting the mind right, getting the heart right, getting into a relationship, finding higher purpose in life and finding sartorial splendor. Essentially, it is as if someone gave F. Nietzsche’s (joke) Ubermensch some Dos Equis, a Match.com subscription and the Times’ Men’s Fashion Supplement. Nietzche himself was a poet, composer, philosopher and classics and cultural critic, who spoke at least four languages. And then he created up the Ubermensch. Nietzsche’s Above/Over/Superman (not to be confused with Clark Kent) is the gift of Zarathustra in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–1885)) to a society racked ritual and herdism. This ‘overman’ is the solution or gift of salvation to a society that doesn’t know it needs the salvation. Like the Fierce Gentleman, the Overman stives to rise above the herd and those in the herd (All beings so far have created something beyond themselves, Zarathustra prologue) try to reach the nirvana like state of the Overman. Overman is a populist ideal, contrary to man’s mere existence of earning to be well fed and warm, Overman is aware of himself, those around him and those in need. He is, as Wikipedia says (because I didn’t remember all of this from college, I had too much fun with Snags along the way) the creator of a new set of values.
At first, the Fierce Gentleman appeared to be the male version of a romance hero – take a second to picture that cheesy cover. But he is an attempt to create new values, from a glossy website, that traces its roots farther back than popular romantic fiction but to 19th century thought, when masterminds wrestled with industrialism, blind acceptance of religion in the age of reasoning and a society moving from insular to external, and eventually global. If Nietzsche hadn’t gone mad at the end of his life he would have disdained, presumably the mass market You Too Can Be An Ubermensch by dressing well and living clean. The only problem with the Ubermensch is that he was, even Zarathustra acknowledged, an ideal that was completely unattainable. Unless, you know, you were Buck Mulligan or T.M.I.N.T. World. Stay Thirsty, my friends.