Omega Males?

Seriously, what the frak is an omega male? Well, Jessica Grose over on Slate tells me they are males that are, well, failures. One of them is played by Ben Stiller in his new movie Greenberg, and after reading a little bit about the character, I really don’t have any desire to watch it. It sounds damned depressing, and I don’t think I’d have much to learn from it or for that matter, connect with, either.

In the Noah Baumbach movie Greenberg, out in limited release this Friday, the eponymous main character is having trouble being a man. The 41-year-old Greenberg, played by Ben Stiller, tells his 25-year-old love interest that when he was a kid he dreamed of being an astronaut. Now he can’t even drive, much less pilot a shuttle. He sabotaged his career as a musician, so he’s trying the old-fashioned, manly pursuit of carpentry. He pretends not to care about his new line of work—he tells his friends he’s doing “nothing for a while”—yet Greenberg is seriously wounded when an ex-girlfriend tells him she doesn’t remember the bed he built for her. All she recalls are his anxiety attacks.

Read the whole thing, of course. She goes on to break out the different stereotypes of the omega male. Quite frankly, the emotion I feel when reading them is mostly sadness, with a bit of disgust. Here’s a bit about the “mimbo”:

Despite his lack of steady employment or fulfilling relationships, Van Holt’s Cougar Town character, Bobby Cobb, is so secure in his alternative masculinity that in a recent episode he was not even embarrassed when he was beaten up and robbed by a woman.

These are the sort of people that don’t need any further excuses for their loserdom. If anything, these characters need to have more derision cast upon them, and not less. I’m not a huge fan of actively degrading or making fun of people like this, but the last thing people should do is portray their life as anything less than something with lots of room for improvement. The same line exists with people with major weight issues. They need love and encouragement, and certainly shouldn’t be made fun of or discriminated against, but for a whole bevy of reasons (health and quality of life being the two big ones), they shouldn’t be told not to worry about it.

So, what’s the line between love and cruelty? How do you love someone but let them know that you believe that they need to change? How do you encourage change, helping the subject feel more capable and worthy, and not less?

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