Monday, March 15, 2010

Epic Beard Man "is epitome of manliness"?

This is some beard-based culture courtesy of some California connections.

The latest YouTube sensation goes by many names -- Thomas Bruso, Tom Slick, Epic Beard Man, Motherfucker.  The original video of his "epic AC transit fight" currently has 4,052,036 views, and the spin-offs - AmberLamps, the "scenes you missed," the exit interviews -- multiply the meme.  It's a video of a fight between a 67 year old white man and a 50 year old black man on a transit bus in Oakland.  The dispute began with an argument over shoe-shining and ended in fists of surprising fury.  See original video here, or check out one of the many news stories and analysis of the meme.

There's all sorts of issue to distract oneself with here -- our culture's glorification of violence, pervading racial tensions, senior-citizen self-defense issues, a "he-said, he-said, but they're both convicted criminals with a long psychiatric history" angle -- but I am mostly interested in (of course), his identity as the Epic Beard Man.  Really?  As you can see in this close-up for an interview:
 His beard is not that epic.  It's not long.  It's not voluminous.  It's not even creatively groomed.  Yet it plays a significant role in his identity.  (He also calls himself "Tom Slick" and "Vietnam Tom," but "Epic Beard Man" has been reiterated more frequently by the YouTubeverse).  What about this man screams "beard"?  And if we're going for "epic," doesn't he know there should be some element of grandiosity and majesty rolled into inevitable tragedy?
I am off-topic.  The topic, apparently, is masculinity.  As Tom demonstrates in this interview, he definitely sees himself as a tough guy.  "The guy was unconscious for 22 and a half minutes!" he repeats.  He tells viewers that he carries a shank, that he's done ten years in prison, and that people should learn "not to f*** with senior citizens."
One commenter on this video proclaimed, "Epic Beard Man is the epitome of manliness."  And so, masculinity is defined as a blood-splattered white beard.  A disappointing characterization, but one that, as Epic Beard Man worms his way into the collective unconscious that is the Internet, will be consistently reinforced.