A man is a man is a man… and a man is nowhere hotter and more intriguing than at a gambling table, calling his opponent’s bluff, scoring and winning, proving his manhood. What a cliché! Still, we can’t help but love the cliché, especially when it comes with a side parting, tailored tuxedo that fits his physique like a glove, a cigarette (Cuban, of course) and probably some black and white shade (yes, we are hinting at the romance and melodrama of films going back to the previous century). The thrill of the unknown, the rush, the ecstasy – it all plays up to a beautiful mind game on and off screen, with the viewers thirsty for another 28-red-score. We love their determination. We admire the devotion. We are enamored with every single one of them. Are we subliminally gambling through (and with) our heroes? We must be.
Paul Newman in The Hustler, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Earl Jones and Robert Shaw in The Sting, Clive Owen in Croupier, Phillip Baker Hall in Hard Eight (to name a few) – were/are gamblers role-models, the men that women wanted to end up with and men wanted to be.
The infatuation is always toxic.
And while we know these perfect sinners would never be good husbands or fathers, we want them in between our sheets, anyhow. They’re powerful and romantic with their devilish charm and glossy eyes, half-way through a glass of whiskey and a big plan for the future. The confidence is almost contagious and them – irresistible. Onscreen.
The reality of gambling, though, is nothing like the scripted version; often, we’ll see semi-groomed, red-eyed and obviously pathetic men with their hairs greasy and bags under the eyes so thick – they could carry you home. With a hint of once fit physique and a fine face, real-life gamblers will resurface from a cloud of cheap cigarette smoke, their body language suggesting desperation and hunger for another try; it’s sad. While on one hand we may even forgive the failure behind every other attempt, we can’t play along with their never-ending misery of a failed life. Addicts to a once promising hobby, real-life gamblers needed to be taken down from the pedestal, urgently. The modern day [woman] doesn’t tolerate addiction nor finds it charming; if anything, addiction to gambling may still render bohemian, although not in a flattering sense of word.
With the shift in priorities, the tastes have changed and we’re now leaning towards men more concrete in their actions, men (and women) like Marvels’ heroes.
Unlike the gamblers (we adored for so long), Marvel’s heroes aren’t tied to vices; if anything, they’re focused in their mission to save the world without much attention given to what hand beats which. Our guess is that, even if they were to be set into a “realistic” circumstance to as much as possible mirror the gambler-masculinity image, their scenery would be lined with free casino games online and a very neat approach to victory. With every win, they’d turn into superheroes who are one step closer to turning the world into a better place. Even the thought of it is very tempting, isn’t it?
Further, Marvel’s heroes are all about physical strength; rarely ever do we see them “braining”. They are creatures of action and moment, and we love the instant-like circumstance and determination. After all, we’re living it – whoever’s got time for contemplation any more.
What we also love about the Marvel hero is that, finally, we’ve got a woman on board. While the onscreen casinos from the turn of the century weren’t female oriented at all, we’ve now got characters like Black Widow to set basis for something even bigger – a woman role model, a woman in the “man’s world”. Without a doubt, controversy is likely to happen with such a turn of events; however, the rise of the female role figure is not only phenomenal from a feminist standpoint, but male too – they finally can have their superwoman obsessions and indulge them, too.
With Marvel dominance, both men and women were given the (almost) equal opportunity to become the definition of strength, power and dominance. True, that no longer entails a roulette table, 20 000$ on black or a three-day-in-a-casino but it does prophet a new world paved with bravery, equality and action. We love it.