A female poster at my site made the comment that some of the content in the Manosphere reminded her of the female love of romance novels. I was struck by that, because I think there is great truth in her observation. It had never occurred to me, although I should have, because I now find it obvious.
I knew a woman who used to blow through three romance novels a week. One quarter of the space of a used-book store near me is given to romance novels. There is a huge market for it, and it's pure fantasy. Almost all women don't take them seriously, although I knew one "schooled" woman (she certainly wasn't educated), who made a lot of money, who went though about ten of them a week, which she used as consolation because she couldn't find that perfect 10 man of her dreams. These novels are just silly fantasies, but there is a lot of silly fantasy in the Manosphere.
Here's some of the fantasies in the Manosphere.
The obsessions with lifting weights and being physically strong. This is a male fantasy you see all the time in movies and novels. It's one of the reason Arnold is so popular. Many male stars, since they have so much spare time, use professionals to train them. Look at High Jackman for an example. He doesn't look like that normally.
It's part of the male desire to be able to defend yourself against threats. Even though many don't know it yet, it's also about the male desire to defend others - to be a protector/provider. Personally, I prefer firearms, since there are always people out there who can beat me up. A lot of them, actually. That's why firearms used to be called Equalizers.
I used to read a fair number of John D. McDonald's novels about his detective, Travis McGee. McGee was a large, strong man and almost never lost a fight, although he was covered with scars. He was also a pretty battered, chivalrous White Knight (but not in the Manosphere sense of a White Knight - in the original sense), To be more specific, he's a Knight-Errant.
McGee was irresistible to women, as was James Bond. In fact, all men's stars are irresistible.Their popularity with women is a large part of their appeal.
So, so far, we have physically strong and irresistible to women. Do those sound familiar?
Three: the Dark Triad. In real life they are a catastrophe, and there is nothing good about any of them. Normal women are not attracted to these men, only the very disturbed ones. But this is not reality we are dealing with here.
You can see portrayals of the Dark Triad in many men's action/adventure movies. The Terminator was about a conscienceless psychopath. James Bond is another one. In fact all of them can kill with impunity.
If you take away the Manosphere fantasies of being physically strong, irresistible to women, and a conscienceless narcissist, how much is left? There is some, but it tends to be opposed to the fantasies, because they clearly see they are destructive fantasies that damage society and civilization (except for being physically strong, of course, but if you want to devote a big chunk of your life to the great pain of body-building, have at it).
There is nothing wrong with being in shape, watching what you eat, things like that. These are good things. This is some very good advice about them in the Manosphere.
I understand why young boys are interested in these novels and movies. They're looking for fictional models they can imitate. Fantasy mentors. That's a good thing. For adult men, they are an escape and a diversion. There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact it is a good thing. As long as you realize what they truly are.
I was a huge fan of James Bond when I was a kid. He was my hero, and I wanted to be him. But I still don't drink martinis and play baccarat. And I have never worn a tux with a bowtie.
The traits you see in men's action/adventure novels and movies are just masculine traits taken way too far, just as romance novels are women's traits taken way too far.
Confidence is something all men want, but some in the Manosphere confuse it with the severe and incurable mental illness known as the Dark Triad.
If you wish, you can see what a man is supposed to be in the Four Cardinal Virtues:
Prudence - ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.
Justice - the perpetual and constant will of rendering to each one his right.
Temperance or Restraint - practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation; tempering the appetite.
Fortitude or Courage - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear, uncertainty and intimidation.
Of all the men's characters I just wrote about, the one who is head and shoulders above all the rest is Travis McGee. He is the only one worth being a model for boys and men. His whole life is based on the Four Cardinal Virtues (he refers to himself as doing "his knight thing"). He has integrity, morality and character. He is chivalrous in the original sense - an armed man willing to do violence, even kill, the Bad Guys to protect the weak, helpless and innocent. He is, in other words, a protector. He also provides for those in need.
Ezra Pound once made the observation that the artist is the antenna of the race. It's an eternally true one.
By the way, those Matt Helm/Flint movies with Dean Martin and James Coburn are a blast.