The Wild Man was a prevalent popular cultural figure that raised questions about the state of masculinity at the start of the 1990s, frequently appearing in self-help books, on magazine covers, in politics, and on the screen. At first a mythical figure, popularised in the writings of American poet Robert Bly and his bestselling self-help book for men, Iron John (1990), the Wild Man was personified by Jeff Bridges on the cover of an Esquire special issue titled ‘Wild Men and Wimps’ in October 1991 (Figure 3.1). Scowling into the camera, Bridges looked animalistic with his lion-like mane growing past his shoulders and a week’s growth of hair on his face. In contrast to his facial appearance, Bridges wore a black bowtie, jacket and white shirt; a contradictory mix of ‘civilisation’ and ‘nature’, both cultivated and feral. With the ‘Wild Men’ cover line stamped in bold font across the actor’s forehead, the words resting atop his slanting bushy eyebrows and piercing grey-blue eyes, Bridges became in a single image a figurehead for the men’s movement championed by Bly at the start of the decade.1 In smaller font and pushed to the edge of the Esquire cover, the Wimp was almost absent. Yet the presence of the Wimp, as the title of the special issue implies, was central to the construction of the Wild Man in the 1990s: the antithesis of Bridges’ wild, hyper-male.
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- From Wimps to Wild Men: Bipolar Masculinity and the Paradoxical Performances of Tom Cruise
- Palgrave Macmillan UK