23 July 2013

Where is the angry young man?

Ishita Mehar, Account Manager, Mumbai

Once upon a time long long ago… there used to be an angry young man…

He was aggressive, macho, muscle-flexing and a goon-bashing man. He had the tough guy stereotype alpha male (hyper masculine) socially and physically dominating and imposing his will upon on all.

Today, the angry young man is under the lens in the light of ‘Naari Shakti’, ‘Metrosexual Man’ and ‘Unisex Youth’.

Naari Shakti - Women today are emerging as the new powerhouses on the block. Countless cases in point, slew of articles and the changing face of Indian cinema & TV are all evidences that women are taking over men big time and throwing them hapless. 

In the past few years, there has been a constant rise in the women power. The woman is no more a prop but is the centre of the universe for everything. The portrayal of women in cinema, TV serials and advertising has evolved over time.

TV serials have women who are empowered and are role models like in ‘Mann Ki Awaaz Pratigya’, Pratigya always stands up against a wrong even when her family stands on the other side, ‘Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai’, Akshara embraces tradition and strives to carry her family with her when she ventures to new thoughts or ideas. The diversity in the women characters on TV today is encouraging. In the early decades, the heroine in Indian cinema had only one objective in life, that of being a sati-savitri, who never looked beyond her family and husband. The kitchen was her cocoon, and she epitomised all things good. 2

The biggest change being that in the matrimony columns of the newspaper they no longer want a homely girl but a working woman.

If you’re not yet convinced, perhaps the real proof is in looking at the other side. Rather like actresses in the Bollywood films of the ‘80’s, the male actors in TV serials today serve mainly as eye candy.

And, Rama Bijapurkar has noted the subtle emasculation in her ‘We Are Like That Only’ column, “…the men in these serials are often reduced to convenient props, or powerless protesters or tyrants, who don’t realize that the rug is being pulled ever so gently from under their feet.” 3

Now, you have strong characters as Vidya Bagchi in Kahaani to a Meera from No one killed Jessica to a Shashi in English Vinglish.
In advertising, the change looks all the more heartening. The readiness of the man to take up his wife’s name after marriage in Havell’s Fans ad or the girl asking the boy to elope with her on bike in Ponds Dreamflower ad just indicate the role reversal that is transpiring in our society.

Even the one thing which was sacred to men “Cricket” now has women involved in it too. Mandira Bedi started it in the cricket world cup of 2003 and now every cricket match in India has women commentators

Women are no longer challenging male dominated domains… they are taking over!

The era of the Metrosexual man - As defined by Mark Simpson who coined the term in his article published in The Independent way back in 1994 – A metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. A man, who got pedicures and facials, practiced aromatherapy and spent freely on clothes.
The metrosexual male became more conscious about how they look, gave more time to their grooming and experimented with their looks not just in the business world but also in society. A lot depended on how he presented himself. Men didn't want to run the risk of being seen as irresponsible and negligent due to their looks. Celebrities, too, became more vocal about their grooming habits, sharing self-grooming details in TV and print interviews.
In the past few years, the men's grooming market has grown exponentially with brands launching not just the  run-of-the-mill shaving gels and foams, but fairness creams, moisturisers, talc, face washes and other grooming products targeted specifically at men, with fairness creams leading the pack.4
The grooming fad was not limited to men from the corporate field - it spread rapidly to college goers and even the younger lot too, making it a whopping 100 crore market in 2009 growing at 25%.
Moreover, the world of clothes and style has extended for men from trousers and jeans to cargos and jeggings. There is no shortage of brands offering pastel coloured pants for men.
Women of the present day are seeking certain attributes in their men; they want to be with guys who are confident, smart, funny, sensitive, stable and mature. 
Youth icons like Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Ayushman Khurana, Virat Kohli, Unmukt Chand, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan etc are the metrosexual men of today who have over shadowed the macho man.
Youth is unisex – With more than 75% of our population being under 30, the gender lines are blurring.

Our generation believes in “Jo tera hai who mera hai” (What’s yours is mine too)

As Anushka Sharma’s character Akira says in Jab Tak Hai Jaan “It’s the instant make-out and instant break-up generation. We have sex first and then then think about if we are in love”.

Films like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Pyaar ka Punchnama, Wake up Sid, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Go Goa Gone, Fukrey etc., are more relatable than the love sagas of the past.

Taking a page out of the book, most brands like Vodafone, Airtel, Pepsi, Fastrack etc are also talking in their language, whether it’s Fastrack asking you to move on… or Pepsi aligning to the impulsiveness with Oh Yes Abhi!  Or even Blackberry which was a man’s brand but has now found resonance with the youth.

The current lot are a product of the co-education system which has led to equal roles for both men and women.

As there is no more differentiation the macho men are struggling to survive.

In a bid to find its voice the angry young man is trying to make a comeback
Suddenly there is a crop of action movies like Ghajini, Agneepath, Wanted, Veer, Dabbang, Bodyguard, Ek tha Tiger, Singham, Himmatwala, Commando etc where you can see the shades of machismo coming out..

Even the current chocolate boys like Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Arjun Kapoor are playing the role of theangry young man in their upcoming films, it comes as no surprise that TV shows male protagonists are following the suit.

Some of the television stars like Gurmeet Chaudhary (Punar Vivah), Barun Sobti (Iss pyaar ko kya naam doon), Vivian Dsena (Madhubala),are playing the angry young man but are a putty in the hands of their ladylove which the masses have loved.

However, there is no angry young man emerging in our ads.

How are brands helping men express their masculinity?
Pulling off stunts – Can masculinity be only expressed when men are jumping from buildings (Thumbs up), driving cars on a rough terrain (Mahindra) or doing wheelies on their bikes (Bajaj Pulsar).

Fighting with other men – One guy bashing up ten in a Dixcy Scott men’s underwear ad.

Play with boy toys – Racing around with their cars (SX4).

Relation to women – the interaction with women, whether it’s understanding them (Idea) or the ironies of being around them (imperial blue) or saying even though we are forgetful but Bande acche hai (ICICI Prudential) or are men looking to be saviours of women, by being soldiers for them (Gillette) or even becoming an ideal ‘man’ or ‘mard’ through Farhan Akhtar’s Mard initiative.

All are pegging towards the man’s innate need to express masculinity in one way or the other.

Today, gender conventions are blurring and men are formulating a more nuanced idea of what it means to be a man.

Nonita Kalra asserts in her column “The Indian man is frustrated because he is irrelevant. As the woman has evolved, she has been able to straddle her traditional and contemporary roles. But the man, fooled by his supremacy, forgot to update himself.”5

Does Indian advertising have a definitive view of where the Indian man is headed?

1 JWT Trends study State of men
2 Divya Khanna, “Serial Shakti”, JWT Coffee and Donuts, September 4 2012
3 Rama Bijapurkar, “The Old Order Has Changed”, Eye on Express, January 29 – February 4 2012
4 Surina Sayal, “Market Transformation: Men's fairness creams”, afaqs, October 08, 2009
5 Nonita Kalra, “Don’t Mess With Us”, Eye on Express, July 29 – August 4 2012