© 2012 Guy Massart. All rights reserved. Just a game

Just a game

Masculinities,  enacted in a contest.  The game, a succession of mediated challenges to one’s worth as against another’s. Through its rules and its tactics, the game entails a caricature, a display of masculinity. A familiar genre of masculinity, two challengers, one winner, one eater and an eaten, rhetoric, kinetics, tactics and luck.  Two visitors and friends play a backgammon game, they speak Portuguese.

Calmly, but firmly, the bodies act. Hands swirl. Upper body highlights lessons: « São duas, uma, duas » [they are two of them, one, two].  Conceded hesitation, in a friendly, confident mood, “isso acho que não”, and then the threats; ‘quer que eu te mato?’ [you want me to kill you?], ‘vou comer’,  ‘comer’, eat, sexually, canibastically, … A moment later, mumbled sweet and sour names, ‘doido’, ‘maluco’,[fool], … The body dances in a joyful contained rhythm. One is speaking more. The other acts; accepting hierarchy is part of being in a group.

The relative slowness of the scene underlines the emotions, the pleasure of the challenges, of the wins and the losses, the provocations, the warnings, the lessons. Fingers pointed at each other’s face, mockery, ‘você apenas perdeu, simples, com uma simplicidade dos simples’. [You just lost simply, in all the simplicity of the simple]. One refuses defeat, the other wants to finish him off now, but he is dismissed nonchalantly. The pleasure holds in the variations of moods through the scenes of the game. Positions, voices’ variations invest a rhythm to the event. All concentration is focused on this moment; rules for manipulating things and performing accordingly immerge the players in the event, a rather contained event and so theatrical.  The game is a suspended moment. One is absorbed by it: two opponents, a board and assistance imagined and present. Strength is linked to the issue of the game when words rage so quietly.

In the playing out this form of masculinity, pervaded by the domination of the opponent, sexual associations are inevitable  ‘matar’,‘comer’, ‘vai dar a sua mijadinha’ [go have your little piss]. The games played among men I know always imply ‘comiduras’, [from comer, to eat, to consume sexually] cards, backgammon, chess, draughts, oril, conquest of the others’ pieces, emanations, kill, wipe the other off the board, take him out of the social game, this all expressed through sexual and gendered lexicon. The tropes active in the game expand the social field of its caricatural gendered relations of domination whilst drawing on them.

Games are self-contained social events, circumscribed by company, time and space, a theatrical performance of a specific masculine display. Strategy, anticipation are key to this masculine ethos of a centred self, it proves analogically one to be socially in command.

A game is a togetherness, an interaction; from it, emanate the pleasure of playing with one’s own values and norms, and the pleasure of displaying and experiencing in turn ambiguous attitudes such as triumph, paternalism, trust, sarcasm and aggressiveness.


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