|Guess who's cucking to dinner? Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman, and Joel Edgerton in "The Gift"|
by Andy Nowicki
Two years ago, at the "old" Alt-Right site, I explored the state of the "cuckold" as poignantly displayed in an especially memorable lite-rock tune of the early 80s, a song which most oblivious listeners took simply to be a sweet, romantic, heartfelt number, though the pitifully sad lyrics clearly revealed an entirely more desperate scenario, involving a loving husband desperate to forget his wife's compulsive and unrepentant serial adultery.
In that article, republished more recently, I observed how some tropes never fully disappear, even when they are supposedly outdated: in an age gripped by gynocracy, pre-feminist standards still obtain in certain critical categories: to wit, if a man cheats on his wife, others tend to sympathize with the wronged party and deplore the caddish adulterer, but if a wife cheats on her husband, the husband is often mocked as un-manly, and is branded a disgraced "cuckold," while his wife's lover is celebrated for his seductive brio and charm, a la Hugh "Blazes" Boylan or Jamie "MacTavish" Frasier.
That is to say, men are still expected to "man up," today as in olden times, or else their wives will stray (and if their wives do stray, it will presumably be a testament not so much to their wives' lack of moral fortitude, but to their own failure to be "proper" men).
Now we have the "cuck"/"cuckservative" meme in full swing, commented on several times in numerous venues, including a few mentions here at Alternative Right. I have weighed in on the subject of this resurgent slur myself, but after seeing the new psychological thriller The Gift. in which the threat of impending cuckoldry plays a significant role in the unfolding of the plot, I cannot help but be struck by the ubiquity of this theme here in 2015.
Cuckoldry-- both real and metaphorical-- is clearly conceptually alive to us in a way that it wasn't back in 2013 when I originally penned my REO Speedwagon analysis. There is something in the air, or in the water, or somewhere, which has caused this eternally potent insult to reassert itself with a peculiar intensity. Is the much-ballyhooed modern-day crisis in masculinity finally coming to a boil? It is a question crying out for meta-analysis.
I don't wish to give away anything significant about The Gift, because I think it is well worth seeing and deserves no spoliation. Suffice to say that it is a movie about a conflict between two men, one of them suave, successful, and charming; the other one a socially inept and troubled loner. Eventually, it emerges that one of these men has horrifically wronged the other. After this crucial reveal, we think we know where our sympathies lie, yet the shocking denouement puts the audience in the challenging position of being forced into sentimental allegiance with the "bad" guy while ardently wishing that the "good" guy will show mercy, much like in the similarly unsettling 2005 revenge thriller Hard Candy.
The fact that cuckoldry can be a man's undoing is a reminder of a fragility that dwells at the heart of masculinity. We like to think of ourselves as strong, but certain species of betrayal can bring us ungovernable grief. Perhaps, though, there is something more broadly human about the fact that we can be undone by circumstances over which we ultimately have no control. Such is the tragedy faced by the three main characters in The Gift: each of them, it may be said, winds up getting "cucked" by fate. But is this not, in a sense, what happens to us all?
Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the Nihil, The Columbine Pilgrim, Considering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so. Visit his Soundcloud page.