I’ll Make a Man Out of You

Table of Content

In 1998 Walt Disney Pictures released Mulan, a movie based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. The story of Hua Mulan, can be traced back to the Ballad of Mulan which centers around the tale of a young women who in order to save her elderly fathers life, disguises herself as a man, and takes her father’s place in the army. While not as much of a success as its processors, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or Aladdin, earning 304.3 million dollars at the box office, Mulan is still considered a Disney classic film. Additionally, the character of Mulan herself was included in the original Disney Princess line up, when the group was originally formed in early 2000. One of the film’s most popular songs, performed by Donny Osmond tiled, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” describes the character, general Li Shang, turning the recruits into men from various training regimens in order to defend China against the invading Huns. Consequently, the question becomes, what does it mean to be a “man” according to the ideas of society and how this concept is then portrayed in literature and the media.

It is important to first define what masculine ideologies are in order to investigate how this is defined through society and the media. In the case of the Ballad of Hua Mulan, Mulan is a representation of a women who rejects the idea of the traditional femininity ideology, ideas, norms and restrictions that constitute as normal feminine behavior, by taking on the role of a man in a field dominated solely by men. Masculine ideologies are, therefore, the exact opposite of femininity ideologies. Masculine ideologies are social norms that are taught to young children, particularly boys, by either their parents or other people in their lives. These teachings have come to be defines as, “the traditional and socially constructed definitions about the cultural norms and expectations regarding appropriate male behavior” (Turner, Psychology Today). These ideologies are then translated and categorized into scripts that young men must follow.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

However, theses scripts are not modern or possibly in favor to the young men who are being taught to follow them. In fact, many men have been seen to go against the tide regarding these lessons of traditional manhood taught by their families because of the psychological and physical tolls brought on by sticking to this script, as early as the late 17th century.

Masculine norms and the private understandings of these norms were implicitly stated in letters shared between family. A study conducted by Henry French and Mark Rothery focused particularly on letters shared between the late 17th century, (1680) and early 19th century (1800). A trend was observed that a crucial moment of the son’s development came when the boys were sent out into the world on their own without direct parental supervision. This crucial step carried with it the chance of either, independence, the enactment of masculine ideals, or alternatively, debt, and disgrace among others. Focusing on three major acts, attention was drawn to the advice given between son and family, ultimately assessing, “how far sons sought to rehearse shared family assumptions in order to demonstrate the acquisition of ‘proper’ standards of judgement” (French and Rothery, 408).

In order to ensure that the sons would follow the assumptions of masculinity, parents would often encourage certain behaviors and habits. This advice would range from the friends that were made while away at school, remembering the admonitions or dynastic functions taught by the family, but perhaps the most common approach being, the identification of a role mole to follow (most often within the confounds of the immediate family). In case of Edward and Thomas Weld, Thomas was encouraged often to look up to his older brother Edward as a reference to his own masculine behavior. Additionally, because Edward was considered a better student compared to Thomas, Thomas was compelled to listen more intensely on his brother’s advice, using him as role model to behave.

A similar experience was found within the Coffin brothers after the death of their father in 1700. Older brothers were thus often titled a role model, a “concrete examples of how to exercise masculine autonomy within recognized familial norms” (French and Rothery 417) and in the case of the absence of the father, the eldest brother was then required, “to adopt the new role of family head, alongside that of older brother. This required them not only to advise or inspire, but also to direct, with an eye to the dynastic concerns (and finances) of the family.” (French and Rothery 417) as early as twenty years old. This pattern of having young boys “looking up” to their elders in addition to having sons fill in the role of the father further perpetuated theses traditional roles of masculinity, but also put on immense pressure and stress to support and conform to the familial ideals of masculinity. In doing so, like projecting the gender norms onto women, the same methods were applied to projecting gender norms of their sons, shaping their behavior to fit the normative template.

In establishing and projecting the gender norms on sons, there became additionally pressure to conform to the common man, regarding overall behavior, and as a result, these behaviors began to exemplify the definition of a man. But what exactly are the qualifications of being considered a man? Masculine ideologies, along with their scripts, have come with subtext on what a “man” is. These qualifications include, men being the breadwinner or the head of the household, anti-feminine, hetrosexual, confident, and or being prone to violence or physically strong.

Being the breadwinner, or the head of the household subtly insinuates that in order to be considered a man, that the person in question must be the provider of the family, financially. This translates into being the one who earns the most money. Regarding being anti-feminine, a man does not show any behavior that is essentially the opposite of masculine, feminine. This kind of behavior is associated with not being in total control of one’s emotions, or publicly displaying those emotions. Being heterosexual is the normative male sexual orientation. Finally, a man is a person who displays a great level of confidence and is a person who is physically strong. This ideal thus suggesting that any other sort of behavior that does not then fit into these listed categories, make the person less male. As a result, there is the development of common scripts that young men have been taught to follow, that fit within these qualifications. These scripts include the types characterized as the, Strong-and-Silent, Tough-Guy, “Give-em-Hell, Playboy, Homophobic Script, and Winner Script. Each of which compliment one or more of the considered qualifications of being a “man”.

Strangely, the qualifications associated with the masculine ideologies seem to be linked to the absence of a father. This trend can be especially found within literature, but also in media. In the absence of the father, the eldest son, similar to the social practices in 17th century England, is then required and expected to then “step up” into the role of the father, providing for the family, But, again, this act of stepping up seems to have a psychological and physical price on the eldest son, due to the additionally responsibility of taking care of others around them.

In Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits after the death of his father, Murad struggles to support his family as a tour guide in Morocco. Despite being the “head of the household” Murad is constantly disregarded by his family because of his financial struggles, “He knew in his heart, that if he only could get a job, he would make it, he would be successful…His mother wouldn’t dream of discounting his opinion the way she did.” (Lalami 108). Therefore, by Murad no being able financially contribute to his family, Murad no longer conforms to the ideal that a man is the breadwinner of the household. Murad’s inability to fulfill the role of “head of the household” is so dire that he essentially become disregarded and unconcluded in traditional practices, such as when a suitor asks for his sisters’ hand in marriage, “’I should have been in the know,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t raise your voice at me. Are you paying for the wedding?’ ‘Just because I don’t have a job you think I’m invisible? I’m her older brother. You should have come to me.” (Lalami 102). In not being included in this major life decision, where the “head of the household” would usually be included, Murad’s true value to his family is revealed and just how much he has failed the family.

Interestingly, in the absence of a fatherly figure, there are severe psychological and physical effects on the child left behind. Children who have been left without a father report having several psychological and physical issues later in life. Children have reported a diminished self-concept as well as a compromised security for both the physical and emotional capacity. This translates into feeling emotionally unstable, and generally feeling abandoned by their fathers along with bursts of self-loathing. Behavioral issues, due to “difficulties with social adjustment and…report problems with friendships” (Kruk Psychology Today). Poor academic performance and poor academic attendance, as well as an increase chance in participating in delinquent or youth crime. Greater likelihood of promiscuity and teen pregnancy, increased drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness have all been linked to having an absent father.

Additional risk includes abuse, physical health problems, and “a wide range of mental health problems, particularly anxiety, depression and suicide” (Kruk Psychology Today). Finally, fatherless children have overall worse life chances, unsuccessful relationships, and are more likely to die earlier compared to those with fathers. However, the most startling being that all “these and other social issues correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than any other factor, surpassing race, social class and poverty” (Kruk Psychology Today) proving the disastrous effects of not only encouraging social norms on young men but pressuring them to grow up before necessary.

These reported symptoms also seem to be translated into literature and media. In 2008 a documentary titled Crisps and Bloods: Made in America detailed the rise of the two gangs, the Crips and the Bloods in South Central Los Angeles, California in the late 20th century. The documentary primarily focused on the external factors that prompted African-American youth to turn towards gang culture, analyzing the role the political, law enforcement and the rise of the crack cocaine each contributed to the rivalry.

In the late 1950s, the American economy began to change dramatically due to the introduction of industrialization. The economy began to change to a dichotomy. High-end or low-end job, and African-Americans, due to the historical discrimination, became displace in the job market. Unable to perform the necessary skills, or education that was required in order to perform the high-end technological jobs, leaving the low-end labor jobs reserved for the incoming immigrants. However, because of they considered themselves as US citizens, felt as if they were better than the low labor jobs.

Eventually, by the end of the 1960s, both jobs and factories disappeared from the local Los Angeles area leaving empty businesses and no other place to turn but the ever-increasing gang culture in order to survive. With the introduction of crack cocaine, the tensions began to reach a peak within the African-American families. Dysfunction and a split household became the norm, with seventy percent of African-American children born to single-mothers, many without jobs of their own to support their children, and twenty eight percent of all black men incarcerated within their lifetime. This leaving a disproportional number of black men in prison and the possibility of any kind of male figure, especially a good role model, in an African-American family severally unlikely.

The documentary thus highlights the struggle for young, usually male, African-Americans to survive and provide for their families with the absence of a father and male role model, in a time of not so ancient history where the only solution became participating in delinquent or youth crime. And subsequently leading to a violence of two gangs that took hold of Los Angeles California and more than 15,000 lives.

Similar tendencies are observed in Diaz’s Drown for the young character Yunior. After Yunior’s father is no longer part of the family, Yunior begins participating in several activities consistent with the above psychological and physical effects of absent fathers. By the titled chapter of Drown, about halfway through the novel, Yunior demonstrates four of the previously discussed effects. The first being behavioral issues. It’s revealed that Yunior’s relationship with his childhood best friend Beto is essentially dissolved, “two years ago we were friends and he would walk into the apartment without knocking” (Diaz 91). However, Yunior also admits that after finishing high school there are “no promises of elsewhere” (Diaz 92) leaving the reader to assume that Yunior’s grade didn’t warrant and invitation to attend a university, or simply didn’t even bother to try reaching for a higher education. Therefore, complying the trend that children of fatherless or separated families have a poorer academic standing.

Next, Yunior talks about he begins participating financially to the family, paying the phone and cable bills. Additionally, participating in role reversals with his own mother, discipling her for talking to Yunior’s father, “I look and see the phone cord, swinging lazily. She’s talking to my father, something she knows I disapprove of…I walk in on her and hang up the phone. That’s enough I say.” (Diaz 101). According to the traditional masculine ideologies, and with the absence of Yunior’s father, Yunior is now considered the “head of the household”. Exhibiting behaviors such as managing the household, both in disciplinary action and financially, However, Yunior still exhibits the psychological effects of earning this title by explaining just how he is earning his money. Not from a regular job, but from selling drugs to kids, “I don’t give her lip about taking her to the mall even though I usually make a fortune on Saturdays, selling to those kids going down to Belmar or out to Spruce Run…I keep my head buried in my cap, praying that nobody tries to score.” (Diaz 96). Therefore, Yunior exhibits two of the effects of absent fathers, participating in delinquent or youth crime and second-hand drug and alcohol abuse. Yunior also admits that while at the mall, Beto and himself would regularly shoplift while making their rounds at the mall, adding another offense to the youth crime.

Cite this page

I’ll Make a Man Out of You. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront