“Let me tell ya something. Nowadays, everybody’s gotta go to shrinks, and counselors, and go on “Sally Jessy Raphael” and talk about their problems. What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn’t know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn’t be able to shut him up! And then it’s dysfunction this, and dysfunction that, and dysfunction vaffancul!” – Tony Soprano
On the first episode of The Sopranos, Tony longed for the classical archetype of masculinity: the head of the family, the provider, the one that could come and go as he pleased; Tony was obviously talking about Don Draper. He is the one disconnected with his feelings, with his time and with his own past (with the exception of The Suitcase when his previous life catches up with his present), he is Gary Cooper. Tony, on the other hand, is the turning point, he dreams with the classical film star standards but he is the beginning of modern television and the culture of the antihero, the troubled male protagonist.
Tony went to therapy to talk about his problems (and his mother) initiating a changing process that reached its peak on two other male protagonists, Frank Underwood from House of Cards and Joe MacMillan from Halt and Catch Fire. Apparently, both of them (and we could also include Ray Donovan), are a “back to basics”, a return to Cooper’s model: strong men in positions of power, secretive about their private lives, true Americans. However, they are an empty shell of a past illusion. The main institution that supported this archetype is gone: Frank and Claire Underwood don’t have any children and their romantic relationships is not exactly… conventional, whereas Joe’s only ambition is success, power, the American dream, his relationship with Cameron fails when their business fails too. For the two of them sexual relations are just an exchange coin or pure acts of hedonist capitalism, there is no connection; that’s why they have sex in-distinctively with men and women (sometimes at the same time), the more the better. Meanwhile, Ray does have a family although he is slowly drifting away from them due to his job and affairs, finally docking, one night, at the house of Steve Knight, where he wakes up in the next episode.
Bisexuality is thus established as one of the main features of this ‘modern man’, not as a sexual orientation but as a metaphor of our current society’s rabid consumerist culture.
Other fictions are also working with this hypersexualized male: Oberyn in Game of Thrones, Dorian and Chandler in Penny Dreadful, Will and Lecter’s healthy relationship (that climaxes in that threesome montage) in Hannibal… Strong silent men that have left behind the canonical institutions of marriage and family in favor of more efficient relationships, relationships of power where sex=business. They are walking out of a dream, the one that Don Draper exited at the end of season 5 when he probably realized his age and institutions were over, they are walking towards a new masculinity.