I’d like to take a moment to deflect attention away from the disappointing quality and box office returns on Green Lantern, and focus on a matter much more serious and important. You see, I noticed the most peculiar thing. The cast of Green Lantern features two major supporting players with that most oft-maligned piece of facial hair: the mustache. It strikes me as quite strange in this day and age (at least outside of National Mustache Month) to see so many key players wearing that delightfully old-fashioned piece of facial hair.
Of course, well-groomed facial hair used to be a true mark of class, something that distinguished the royalty of Europe from us common proles. Consider, for example, how many moustaches one might spot on a quick browse through a school history book, as opposed to on a lunchbreak stroll. In fact, it seems that historical films are the one place where these sorts of facial hair stylings are tolerated today. I mean, check out the spiffing ‘tasche on Albert in The Young Victoria.
You might suggest that the moustache is a mark of class. After all, it seems that only the most considered of older men would dare to carry them off in this day and age. Well, that and Charlie Chaplin impersonators. The moustache at the moment seems to be something of an outdated social status symbol, one that denotes the older and more distinguished gentleman. Consider, from example, Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon, who is stuck playing responsible adult in a city full of grown men who like to play dress-up. You see an older man with a moustache, and you immediately assume that this man deserves your respect.
However, as always the way with facial hair, it can mean different things to different folks. After all, the only other group of people for whom it seems socially acceptable to grow a moustache are bikers and tough men. Hell, even historically, I look at Teddy Roosevelt and think “there’s a bad ass”, despite the fact that he had a meticulously-groomed tickler. It seems that, in this day and age, you can only really get away with a moustache if you own a tweed jacket or a leather jacket. I am, sadly, cool enough for neither, despite my occasional best efforts.
It wasn’t so long ago that the moustache seemed to be on the very verge of a comeback. I mean, look at Tom Selleck. Sure, he’s in “the men you respect with a ‘tashe” category by this stage, but he always looked better with his upper lip hair – even as Magnum P.I. I can still watch that show and appreciate Selleck’s style without a hint of irony. If you were making a show like that today, the moustache would only survive as a homage, or a none-too-subtle dig. Actors like Burt Reynolds and Sam Elliot seem to only be allowed to carry off the style (and admittedly only from time to time) due to their role as elder statesmen.
Some might argue that there’s been a resurgence in popularity of moustaches recently, and I have to concede I admire the sense of pride that these torchbearers have:
“You got to wear it with this attitude,” Mr. Della Valle said. “Your mustache is always there, saying, ‘Yeah, I have a mustache, so bring it on.’ If you have a sense of humility connected to your mustache, it doesn’t look as good as it should.”
Man, I wish I could do that. And don’t think that I haven’t tried.
So I laud the decision of Green Lantern to give two prominent roles to individuals with mustaches. Of course, they are two sinister characters, so it isn’t perhaps a major step forward in the portrayal of mustaches on the big screen. After all, villains do need something to twirl. More than that, though, the characters in question actually owe their physical appearances to actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, so they probably aren’t making any huge leaps forward in the public profile of the mustache. Hector Hammond, the sleazy scientist played by Peter Sarsgaard, is modeled on Burle Ives. The pink alien Sinestro is modeled on David Niven. You could argue that those two decisions are, therefore, legacy mustaches – the facial hair as kept on life support by homage and reference, like that strange beast that nestled under William Hurt’s nose for The Incredible Hulk.
I long for a day when the mustache’s best days are ahead of it again. I look forward to a time when a major movie star might dare to sport that piece of facial hair not as some ironic statement, or because he landed a role in a period piece, but because he’s willing to embrace the raw masculine energy of the mustache. It’s a dangerous beast, and many a good man has proven unable to wrestle it, but – some day – we men will learn to channel and perhaps even tame it. If we’re lucky.
Perhaps it’s more likely the mustache might tame us.