How The Boys of ABC’s ‘The Goldbergs’ Represent Guy Culture Today

The Goldbergs.

A comedic family show that airs on ABC every Wednesday evening. I’ a big fan of the show and I usually watch episodes on Hulu during my down time. Beverly Goldberg, the overbearing mother who smothers her children with “huggies” and “kissies” is hysterical. Her kids Erika, Barry, and Adam do their best to avoid her over-protective antics, but there is no escaping the mom-claws of the Bev-nator.

Although Beverly is a hit on the show, this post, however, isn’t about her. It’s about her high school son, Barry, and her adolescent son, Adam. In a particular episode I watched last night, I noticed aspects of the episode that didn’t make me laugh the way I normally would. The episode actually made me think about guys and their ways of being guys.

The scene begins with a voice over, where Adam talks about how cool his big brother is because he hangs out with his friends who did cool stuff together. As a group, the boys called themselves the “JTP’s.” They paraded the name wherever they went and acted as if nobody could come close their “coolness.”Adam looked up to them and waited for the day he could hang out with the coolest guy group he knew.

But when that day finally came, Adam realized something he didn’t expect to. The JTP’s weren’t actually as cool as they hyped themselves up to be. The “crazy and cool” things they bragged about doing weren’t that crazy or that cool.

A day in the life with the JTP’s consisted of breaking already broken things found in the dumpster; eating hot dogs as quickly as possible; running and jumping over stuff in parking lots; nude streaking through the streets; checking out girls in secret, and talking smack to one another as a way of bonding. This was not fun for Adam. This stuff was just dumb.

I’d have to agree with Adam. The boy’s actions were just silly and immature. And instead of watching these scenes as I normally would, I looked at it with a critical lens. The JTP boys were doing the things they thought guys were supposed to do. They were “performing” male-gender. They huffed, puffed, and talked a big game, but in reality, it’s not who they really were. They were putting on a show of what they believe represented guy culture. However, the ironic part was that they were putting on this show for each other to prove their masculinity.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a performance that is only done in this show. Gender performance is what happens in real life in everyday situations by heterosexual males. It is constructed governed by males and society where men need to be strong, dangerous, protect one another, and not act in the feminine. Masculinity must be proven at all times in order to convey a heterosexual male’s “manhood.”

A few days after the watching the episode, I hung out with my boyfriend and four of his friends during a weekend outing. They huffed, and puffed, and talked a big game. Their weekend was going to be “crazy” and they were going to do “crazy” things. Thinking about the Goldberg episode, I thought to myself, “These guys aren’t really going to do anything crazy. They are just performing what they believe is hegemonic hetero male behavior.” As the weekend went by I stood by my initial thoughts and I was right. The crazy weekend ended up being dinner, drinks and talking a big game.

The behavior of hetero men is usually is very similar. They behave in certain manners to prove their manhood and it all revolves around power, strength, control, sex, violence, and other hetero men. These behaviors are done with many of these men not even realizing how their playing in dominant social constructions that weaken the agency of each and every one of them.

I believe it’s time for them to wake up and see that this performance isn’t real, natural, or beneficial to their growth as a human being. But in order for it to be put at to stop, men need to become aware of what’s going on.

So guys, wake up and stop talking a big game. It leads to actions that hurt other individuals and you don’t need to prove your manhood at the expense of others.

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