Hollywood earns its profits by appealing to the fantasies of its audience, including women; if the product fails to strike the audience’s imagination, it flops. Some lessons about what female audiences like can be drawn from the early career of Clark Gable. The film that made him a star was A Free Soul (1931), in which he played a gangster who pushes Norma Shearer around to let her know who’s boss.
As a fan site puts it, previous male leads had been “suave and svelte, romantic and tender.” Gable’s character:
was supposed to be the villain, the evil corrupt criminal that you are supposed to root against–it’s Leslie Howard you are supposed to hope Norma ends up with–plain vanilla Leslie Howard. Well, the fans spoke and spoke loudly–the 1931 woman didn’t want plain vanilla and no longer wanted “powder puff” men with styled hair and ruffles on their shirts–they wanted a real man, a rough man, a man who was a bit dirty and not afraid to put them in their place.
Gable followed up this role with that of a sinister chauffeur who knocks Barbara Stanwyck out cold with one punch in Night Nurse. These were the last supporting roles he was ever to play. Bushels of fan mail began arriving at the studio. Some breathless women are said to have offered to let Gable hit them!
Or consider this real-life Hollywood story, quoted by Steven E. Rhoads in his valuable book Taking Sex Differences Seriously (New York: Encounter Books, 2005):
Eddy Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both tell of a dinner party at their house where Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor started belting each other. Todd ended up dragging Taylor across the floor by her hair as she kicked and scratched. When Reynolds became alarmed and jumped on Todd’s back to get him to stop, Todd and Taylor both turned on her. According to Fisher, Taylor said, “Oh Debbie… Don’t be such a Girl Scout. Really, Debbie, you’re so square.”
Todd and Taylor were fighting in order to “make up” afterwards. It is not uncommon for wives to provoke their husbands into hitting them for precisely this reason.
Many of the “battered women” we are encouraged to sympathize with have a remarkable tendency to suffer from abuse at the hands of every man with whom they become involved. Tammy Wynette, the Country singer who gained fame with the song “Stand By Your Man,” was married to five men and left four of them (managing to die with her fifth marriage still intact). Most of her husbands are said to have abused her in some way, and teary-eyed retellings of her “tragic” life have been offered to the public.
I remind the reader of the central principle of male-female relations: women choose. They represent the supply; men represent the demand. If Tammy Wynette never took up with a man who failed to abuse her, there can be only one explanation: Tammy had a thing for nasty boys.
If you put a woman like this in a room with a dozen men, within five minutes she would be exclusively focused on the meanest, most domineering and brutal fellow in the room. Some women who had alcoholic fathers have a similar uncanny ability to detect the alcoholic in a room full of men, even if he is sober at the moment. “Women’s intuition” is a reality: it is an ability to pick up on tiny signals, slight nuances of facial expression that would go unnoticed by a man.
We are attracted to qualities in the opposite sex which our own sex lacks. For many women, this means an attraction to male brutality.
(Counter-Currents, September 17, 2014).