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Five animated shows that reveal the future of men

By Pieta Woolley

Men, what the hell happened, eh? The last 60 years have been a whirlwind. The sexual revolution, the women’s movement, the men’s movement, the abandonment of marriage, the Promise Keepers and Margaret Thatcher. You can almost imagine depression and wartime Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King squinting through time at Justin Trudeau, today’s yoga-posing, feminist-sounding prime minister, and scratching his tidy comb-over.

In “The New Masculinity,” featured in this month’s Observer, Josiah Neufeld reflects on a trio of new books that attempt to show men how to respond to these changes and support the women that they love. Help them is the essential message. 

While a few old farts still read books (as if), the rest of us are splayed out on our couches with a bowl of greasy popcorn, suckling on our analysis from Netflix.

And it’s pretty sharp, with animation satirizing archetypes and serving a particularly vital role in redefining men.

Here are five animated shows that just may reveal the future of men. God help us.

1. & 2.  American Dad & Family Guy

Concept: Both shows feature white suburban families with overly confident yet buffoonish men at the helm. And both aim to satirize this version of American men, which is far past its best-before date, while showing cracks in the worldview that created them.

Details: Created by animation it-man Seth McFarlane and appear on cable and Netflix 

The takeaway: Men who have not evolved are clearly idiots. But it doesn’t cost them anything.

Future outlook: Poor. No one wants to evolve. There is no future.

3. Son of Zorn

Concept: Zorn is a Conan the Barbarian-like cartoon character who abandoned his live-action girlfriend and their infant son. Now that the son is a teenager, and the mom is planning to marry her sensitive, new-age, live-in lover, Zorn is back to make amends. This aggressive, hyper-masculine warrior must then learn to live with the expectations women and children place on their men in the 21st century. And, of course, the ideas that men place on each other.

Details: Created by 20th Century Fox and available on Netflix and FOX (Some mild adult content)

The takeaway: After 60 years of feminism, men and women have succeeded in creating homes and workplaces that are equal. But life isn’t very sexy or satisfying.

Future outlook: Cheery. Zorn’s son must find a balance between his gentle socialization and warrior genes.

4. LEGO Elves: Secret of Elvendale

Concept: In an attempt to sell more LEGO to girls, the toy company introduced a line of minifigure kits, books and a TV show about the happenings in the fairyland, Elvendale. Bright, can-do girl elves are at the centre; the male elves are on the periphery — and also demonstrate no traditional male characteristics. In fact, the male elves seem nearly gender-free (Note: My Little Pony is very similar).

Details: Created by LEGO and available on Netflix

The takeaway:
Girls are interesting to girls, and boys don’t really exist anyway.

Future outlook: The future is female (Thanks to CBC’s Baroness Von Sketch for setting this so-called feminist ideal on fire). 

5. Moana

Concept: The environment in Oceania is decaying. An adventurous future chief, Moana, journeys to find the source of the decay. She is aided by Maui, a damaged demi-God. To work together effectively, Maui teaches Moana how to be a competent mariner and keep her ego in check, and Moana helps Maui heal his brokenness and remember his power.   

Details: Created by Disney and available on Netflix.

The takeaway: By far, this is the most instructive gender story among these cartoons. Men and women must both evolve, both must find their true power, and both must be humble enough to recognize that they must learn from the other.

Future outlook: Excellent. Unlike Son of Zorn, in which gender equality means dullness and passivity on the part of both men and women, Moana showcases a vital, healthy future that’s about power and responsibility. 

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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