The Turner prize-winning artist has turned his sights on the survivalist [Bear Grylls] and his exceptionally rugged version of masculinity, arguing that it isn’t fit for the 21st century. “He celebrates a masculinity that is useless,” Perry said… Perry said that the masculine ideal presented by shows such as The Island, in which Grylls is currently putting a third group of hapless contestants through survivalist hell, is making it harder for men to successfully negotiate modern life. “Men might be good at taking the risk of stabbing someone or driving a car very fast, but when it comes to opening up, men are useless,” Perry told the Radio Times in an interview to promote his new series, All Man.
And then, because we haven’t had one in a while, a classic Guardian sentence:
“Masculinity is a decorative feature that is essentially counter-productive.”
Well, it’s true that rafting skills and urine-drinking may be niche concerns and of obvious practical use only to explorers, hardy outdoors types, and people whose package holidays have gone catastrophically wrong. But – and it’s quite a big one - there’s something to be said for seeing people in unfamiliar and rather trying circumstances achieving more – sometimes much more - than they thought they ever could. Which is both the premise and appeal of Mr Grylls’ various, quite popular TV programmes. However, showing people that they may be much more capable than they previously believed, resulting in a sense of great personal satisfaction, is apparently unimportant, a mere “hangover” from more primitive, less Guardian-friendly times.
Regarding the claim that masculinity is functionally obsolete and is now merely decorative, and at risk of seeming unkind, readers are invited to compare the mugshots of Mr Perry and Mr Grylls, these two contrasting expressions of modern masculinity, and ponder which is likely to attract the more widespread and vigorous sexual attention. Or indeed which of them might be more likely to prevail in a more hazardous physical exchange – say, an attempted mugging. And on the supposed uselessness of archetypal masculine skills, Mr Grylls’ lengthy television career, his extensive property portfolio, and his estimated annual earnings from UK merchandising alone of £3.3 million, rather speaks for itself.