Monday, February 29, 2016

Supplemental Post #2: Leo My Man

Oprah: "It Happppppened!! bravo Leo! standing O in my p.j's. #Oscars"; Elizabeth Banks: "Leo is a class act. Congrats. #Oscars"; Ellen Degeneres: "He did it! He really did it! @LeoDiCaprio, I love you #Oscars;" Kanye: "Finally!!! Our guy!!! We're so so happy for Leo!!!" Twitter went ballistic last night after Leo received his first Oscar for his performance in The Revenant. Bottom line, everyone was thoroughly satisfied with Leo's win at the Oscars last night, which really prompted me to think of his impact on the entertainment industry and popular culture as an image of masculinity.

Leo's kind of masculinity has to do with an overall classiness, uncompromising professionalism and committed activist mindset. Leo's classiness is readily detected by the way he carries himself, the way he delivers a speech and interact with the media. The minute he stepped on stage last night, you could tell he was confident and comfortable with receiving the top honor. His speech is carefully prepared and eloquently articulated, filled with warmth, determination and passion. It includes congratulatory notes to fellow nominees and cast and crew of The Revenant. He also manages to make a graceful segue from the theme of film, man's relation to the natural world, to a plead for attention to climate change. Nothing short of class.

His professionalism can be analyzed through his unbelievable body of work for a period of over 20 years, in which he played far-ranging and complex characters from a mentally impaired young man, Arnie (What's Eating Gilbert Grape), a poor romantic artist, Jack (Titanic), a master of deception, Frank (Catch Me If You Can) to a shrewd and addicted businessman, Jordan (The Wold of Wall Street). Throughout these years, he has consistently earned positive critical and commercial successes, proving himself to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation. On top of that, he kept challenging himself to do his most grueling and difficult shoot of his career, in his words, The Revenant. His search for excellence is restless.

Arguably, the more impressive and admirable moment about his win was his speech, which included an impassioned call-to-action on the effect of climate change, a clause Leo has provided a powerful voice for in popular culture and even in the UN, where he serves as Messenger of Peace. This is what sets him apart from other models of masculinity represented by stars in movies, TV or music (of course, we also have Emma Watson), and everyone loves him for it.

If we think of Leo as a contrast to the models of masculinity from John Wayne, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in the 50/60s, we could say that society has come a long way. The male hero we have today has to be a lot more versatile, classy and committed to activism (it's funny to think of John Wayne as a mega star who only excelled in the Western and Leo's versatility.) Leo may not be the toughest masculine model today, but maybe that's why he is popular. Going forward, let us not take Leo for granted, because his impact is important to our understanding of masculinity today.

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