License article

Poor role models for angry young men

How good is this footy season, when two of our premier codes set pulses racing, get adrenalin pumping and send emotions soaring?

This is the time great coaches emerge in rugby league and Australian Rules, a time when the big, hard men get on top of other men, opening the way for speedy backs and high flyers to reach new heights. In spring, a little more licence creeps into the finals to spill blood for the colours we love. The ensuing fireworks on the field send television ratings through the roof.

Off the football field, a tried and tested formula for box office success gives the action hero an excellent excuse to be violent, and it is coming under scrutiny as people try to make sense of the rising, deadly violence against women.

Pick any of the Mel Gibson blockbuster movies and you get the idea. Some evil person will either threaten the hero or kill a member of his family, thus opening the road to a revengeful resolution on a socially acceptable platform. In Braveheart Gibson's William Wallace leads Scotland to revolt after his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her.

In this feverish finals period that celebrates physical strength, and the big screen's repetition of might being right, older men must keep younger men within the rails of reality. For our Australian culture is getting away from a safe playing field for every member of our society, and alarm bells are ringing.

They were sounded in two powerful talks before 500 people in Canberra, when men questioned our distinctly Australian values and our poor choices of entertainment.


Menslink chief executive Martin Fisk asked 500 people over a breakfast in aid of supporting young men to think of a movie these days in which the hero achieves anything without violence? Such a movie is rare.

Fisk's message was that telling young men what they should, and should not do, telling them not to hit women, not to bottle up their anger, was not enough.

Young men need role models. Thinking of the estimated 25 per cent of male teenagers who live with their mothers in a single-parent family, Fisk says entertainment on offer has changed from 20 years ago, when it involved other people.

Today, more options are at hand for downloading entertainment with violent themes that can be consumed alone in a bedroom. Consequently a young man growing up with poor emotional intelligence and deprived of life skills is more likely to lash out, instead of reaching out for help.

At the same breakfast retired Australian Army chief Lieutenant-General David Morrison, a high-profile campaigner on violence against women, said shows like Game of Thrones which glorified violence needed to be questioned. Morrison is not advocating censorship. He is challenging us all to re-evaluate our viewing choices.

The two speakers say mentors who draw on their life experiences can show young men that violent actions generally lose out. The cool-headed communicators win, on and off the field.