The Scarface Effect
Some manly heroes of youth just don’t live up to adult standards.
The heroes of the Pure Pwnage webseries which I grew up with are among them. For starters, not only are Jeremy “teh pwnerer” and FPS Doug nightmarish parodies of the “power gamer” stereotype, but the machismo Jeremy in particular exhibits reminds me a bit too much of a guy I used to know who kinda went off the rails a few years back, fitting, since the actor who plays Jeremy looks enough like him to be uncanny.
This is the same guy I used to know who introduced me to Scarface.
Scarface may be a sacred text to the hip hop community, but I only started enjoying it long after my fellow men had stopped idolising Tony Montana since he was kind of a manipulative bug of a bloke who had little honour, but not before my generation somehow made Grand Theft Auto: Vice City one of the more profitable turns in a video game franchise back when GTA was still a contender for the new big cash cow.
Tony Montana’s kind of a horrible role model for children, not that he asked to be one. In fact, he’s protective of children in a way that other gangsters are not, which evokes later on in pop culture how the rapper Eminem used to be one of the illest mofos alive but ended up holding a terrible secret that would damage his street cred, he lived a double life not as a killer roaming the streets but instead a much more “lame” secret identity of being a single father in an era when many hip hop songs like the ones on Dr. Dre’s 2001 album were much more misogynistic about the issue of unplanned parenthood.
Eminem in comparison to Tony Montana was kind of brave for outing himself as the arguably responsible single father he truly was, even though many of Eminem’s fans think Halie’s Song is the most piss weak of his The Eminem Show record’s tracks, I’d safely say that Halie’s Song despite its explicit lyrics is a track I’d recommend to every new father of a daughter currently alive on this Earth.
Badassery in modern pop culture is noted by very nebulous accreditations, sometimes it’s as easy as simply being named Bruce Wayne and happening to be the superhero Batman by default, other times it’s more difficult as more internet lore-y heights of ridiculous testosterone pumping are needed to be attained to be worthy of what Angry Joe once called the “Badass Seal of Approval”.
Why is Eminem punished for taking responsibility for his life and the direction it’s headed instead of going down the self destructive route of Tony Montana, and to a more realistic extent the tragic example of Kurt Cobain?
Well, to answer that, we’d have to come to terms with the fact that hip hop culture doesn’t consider responsible parenting with greater emphasis on positive aspects of male psychology as appropriate hip hop origin stories for a gangster.
This is why Tony Montana’s probably been idolised for so long. When you’re about fifteen or so, he seems like the coolest dude in the world, but when you watch the movie he appears in as an adult, his dubious morality doesn’t really hold up and you wind up disappointed that your idol had feet of clay. It happens.
Ten years from now a generation of men will react the same way when they discover that their precious King Leonidas in 300, played by Gerard Butler, was in fact nothing more than an elaborate, macho facade put on by the same man who played The Phantom of the Opera in an Andrew Lloyd Webber movie musical.
That alone’s demoralising enough to an uncomfortably homophobic demographic of internet tough guys, but once it sinks in that the Spartan warrior culture wasn’t as awesome as Frank Miller told them it was, The Scarface Effect, as I’ll call it for convenience, will be in full effect. The macho man awesome just won’t hold up.
So what of Pure Pwnage, and the “power gamer” stereotype it both made fun of and glorified in its campness? Well, I’m sad to say that Jeremy’s humping his computer after he pwns some guy at Starcraft isn’t funny in quite the same way as it was when I was fifteen. The good news is that such bombastic displays of macho male behaviour become hilarious when viewed through the eyes of an adult, and are helpful for men to revisit to try and figure out how they got to where they are now, good or bad.
Nostalgia’s a thing of the past, but it helps ease you into the future.