Study Guide

Crash Men and Masculinity

By Jerry Spinelli

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Men and Masculinity

Chapter 10
John "Crash" Coogan

"She's gonna go"—I made my voice high like a girl's—"'Oooo, there's that Crash Coogan scoring another touchdown. I do believe I'm falling in love with that boy. He's so good and handsome.'" (10.37)

Crash has some weird ideas about what women like. Where do you suppose those ideas came from?

Chapter 13
John "Crash" Coogan

"Penn Webb wants to be a cheerleader."

He bit off the end of his sandwich. He shook his head, chewed, chuckled, and spoke all at once: "Now, that is terrifying." (13.43-13.44)

There are plenty of things in this world that are terrifying—big bugs, clowns, and running out of ice cream, for starters. But male cheerleaders? They don't seem so terrifying…except to Crash's dad. Don't ask us why, but it's pretty clear that he finds a young boy's extracurricular activity threatening to his own masculinity.

Chapter 16
Mike Deluca

Mike grinned. "You're just jealous, 'cause you like her."

I laughed. "Me? You're crazier than crazy. Why would I like that stuck-up bimbo?" I laughed some more. (16.5-16.6)

Though you might not know it from the "stuck-up bimbo" comment, Crash really does like Jane Forbes. And no one thinks she's a bimbo; that's just a really nice way that Crash and his friend have of talking about girls. Yikes. Why do you think they need to put her down even though they both want to pursue her?

"I'm a vegetarian."

"Since when?"

Mike sneered. "Since she started hanging out with Little Miss Webb." (16.10-16.12)

When Penn becomes a cheerleader, Mike starts calling him "Little Miss Webb." Man, these guys have some gender issues. Penn, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care about the "theater of manliness" that Crash and Mike seem so obsessed with.

Abby Coogan

Abby sneered, "My big brave brother, Crrrash Coogan, is afraid of mice." (16.60)

Crash's sister, Abby, all but calls him "Little Miss Crash" here. No wonder he feels like he needs to prove his manliness all the time.

Chapter 17
Mr. and Mrs. Coogan

"Get a trap."

"Me?" said my father.

"You're the male. You're supposed to be the hunter." (17.10-17.12)

Mrs. Coogan is a feminist—at least, that's what we've been led to believe so far. So, what's up with this quote? Is she seriously pawning off this job on her husband because he's the "man of the house," or is there something else going on here?

Chapter 18

He's a cheerleader. Same sweater and shoes as the girls. At least he didn't have a skirt on. It was one of the eeriest and uncomfortablest feelings I ever had, watching a boy lead cheers for me. (18.8)

Okay, so having a male cheerleader on the sidelines is new for Crash. We get that. But "one of the eeriest and uncomfortablest feelings" he's ever had? Seems a little extreme. Why do you think this is so off-putting for Crash? What does this reaction say about him and the way he views cheerleaders?

Chapter 23
John "Crash" Coogan

"Maybe you don't know, 'cause you're new here, but that's a men's store. I can wear men's sizes." I gave her a wink. "I guess you could wear women's sizes, huh?" (23.8)

Here, we have Crash delivering what is surely the worst line in the history of manhood to Jane Forbes. Does it work? Take a wild guess...and then try to explain—to us and to yourself—why Crash thought it might work.

Chapter 25

I'm so popular I could probably be school president. I'd get the vote of everybody who was glad to see Little Miss(ter) Cheerleader get dumped by a real man. (25.3)

It sounds like a lot of kids at school share Crash's opinions about male cheerleaders. Penn gets a lot of grief from his peers for being into cheerleading. In a sense, then, it's not just Crash who bullies him—it's society itself. How would a male cheerleader go over in your community? Would his age make a difference? Why or why not?

Chapter 45
Abby Coogan

"Is Daddy quitting his job, too?" Her face showed what she wanted the answer to be.

"No," said my mom, "not unless you want to live in a hut." (45.20-45.21)

Crash's dad works 70 hours a week, and by the end of the novel, there's no sign he's cutting back. That's in sharp contrast to Crash's mom, who sacrifices her career to spend more time with her family. What sort of message does that send about gender norms?

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