We all know that it’s hard to be a young man these days, as just 7 in 10 18-to-34-year-olds work, more than one-third of them live with parents, and one-fifth are in poverty. While women are still more likely to be cheated by America’s unequal economy, young men also face complex and confusing issues about what it means to be “a man.”
Frederick Marx and his production company, Warrior Films, has focused for 20 years on the challenges that adolescent boys face in transitioning to manhood in a time when traditional macho masculine norms compete with newer norms about being expressive and nonsexist.
Best known for his award-winning, commercially successful documentary, “Hoop Dreams” (1994), about African American teen-agers in Chicago, Marx made a path-breaking film, “Boys to Men,” in 2003 about 32 boys in Newark, NJ, of all classes who weren’t succeeding.
Marx gets the challenges, the confusion, and the anger among many young men and is working to enable young men to have better opportunities for successful, happy lives. He understands what it means to be angry about being without a job or a good job, living at home, drawn to alcohol or drugs, and existing in an “economy (that) doesn’t know he exists.”
“Boys are in much greater danger of not transitioning successfully into maturity,” Marx told me as I’ve been writing my book, “Man Out: How Millions of American Men Are Not Leading Productive Lives.”
Marx, who lives in California, has completed a new doc called “Rites of Passage” and is now writing an online advice column for young men, ”Man2Man.” As he says, quoting an African proverb, “If we don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat.”
The fact that too many Americans are struggling economically and that women are still the undervalued objects of discrimination and misogyny does not mean that the United States does not have a serious “man problem.” Check out Marx’s work and follow us (and send your thoughts at) www.manout.us.