The art of ‘being cool’ in modern society is no longer trendy - men are expected to be more sensitive and understanding. Yet so many are unable to cope with this new role, and have been christened the new ‘men in pain’ in Germany. So it’s a good thing that Jeff Bridges, in his cinematic role from ‘The Big Lebowski’, has a few tips
‘Schmerzensmann’: What German ‘men in pain’ can learn from The Dude
The Dude vs. 'Schmerzensmann'
Lars Eidinger is like the younger version of Hugh Grant in Germany; he is not cool. He is actually pretty uncool. With his visible receding hairline and tall, awkward style, the actor usually picks out more meaty roles. He is always labelled as being typical of his generation – he was born in 1976 - and is thus somewhat tacky, indecisive and generally overwhelmed by life. The thirtysomething has an adult complexion which doesn’t quite seem to suit him.
Lars Eidinger in his most famous ‘man in pain’ role | ‘Alle Anderen’ (‘Everyone Else, 2010)
‘My generation is considerably plagued by complexes,’ said Eidinger in a recent interview with the German television presenter and author Sarah Kuttner. ‘That’s got a lot to do with the 1980s.’ At the time, says Eidinger, men would adopt poses and acquire certain attitudes such as ‘poker face’ and ‘cool’, all ways of being which suggested a coldness of heart and a lack of emotion. ’Then I eventually realised that I was having trouble standing by my own emotions,’ concluded Lars.
Feel, don’t pose
It’s strange to hear something like that coming from an actor who’s celebrated as the talk-of-the-town, the prime example of a ‘man in pain’, a ‘man of sufferance’. These terms are a less-than-satisfactory translation of ‘Schemerzensmann’ (‘pain man’), which was coined by German journalist Nina Pauer at the beginning of 2012. It instigated a huge discussion in the German media about the role of modern males. Because Eidinger is self-reflective and sensitive, he is thus anything but ‘cool’ in the sense of being ‘emotionless’. In other words, he’s a ‘man in pain’ par excellence. His predecessor was the type of man who would throw poses instead of let his emotions loose; for this new ‘man in pain’, a cultivation of understanding takes precedence over what were formerly macho affectations. What understandably arises from all of this is that through such self-contemplation and placing-of-oneself-in-a-girl’s-shoes, the ’man in pain’ simply forgets to take action - at all. He awaits a first kiss in vain. He would much rather accept being ‘the best friend’. He plays songs from the American indie band Bright Eyes to boot.
‘Suddenly men should listen and be more sensitive; in short, they should be more like women’
Nina Pauer complains that men in their early twenties until mid-thirties aren’t able to flourish in life in general, much less with women. The ‘man of pain’ suffers from modern society. For decades, men were expected to be tough, ‘cool’, wear the pants and conquer women. Now, suddenly they should listen and be more sensitive; in short, they should be like women. They should be sincere, to understand feelings. Coolness is just not popular in modern society anymore.
Just take it easy, man
The 2007 book I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski and What-have-you is the work of four American authors which was recently published in Germany. The title refers to a role played by American actor Jeff Bridges in the cult classic The Big Lebowski (1998) who is portrayed as a master in the art of living. ‘The Dude’, as he is nicknamed, likes to slob about, preferably whilst sporting a bathrobe and brandishing a glass of alcohol. His hobbies include bowling and driving around. The Dude used to be a roadie, but somewhere along the lines he kind of got stuck. The motto of the Dude can be summed up as follows: life is short and complicated and no one knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it - stop over-thinking it.
‘The Dude’ | Opening scene from ‘The Big Lebowski’
Unlike Lars Eidinger, Germany’s archetypal ‘man in pain’, the Dude is cool. Moreover, he’s über-cool. He lives his life casually, without giving much thought to whether or when he should kiss a woman. In other words, the Dude can be seen as the antithesis to the ‘man in pain’, and could probably provide some useful advice to confused twentysomethings about how to deal with the complexes of modern society.
Young men cultivate patience as they wait for the woman to take the initiative. They’re waiting to rediscover a role that resonates with them and that can take the place of the role that was lost, but they don’t know exactly what that looks like. To all these young men, the Dude says: It’s alright if you’re confused. Take it easy. Be cool - but not cool in the emotionless sense that was popular in the eighties. Be cool in the sense of being relaxed. Be cool without having the attitude of coolness. But first, let’s first listen to a round of Bright Eyes.
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