Whatever happened to the real men? The gunslingers and swordsmen who charged into adventure on horseback?
Well, it turns out they all quit, because being a real man kind of sucked. All of those badass jobs they made movies about were all pretty much worse than the job you have now. Such as...
Recently, Disney and Johnny Depp have reassured us that pirates were the awesomest people ever. They lived on the seas, they had monkeys and wenches and giant squid that did their bidding.
Real piracy has been around since about the 13th century BC, and it's likely that every single pirate in all of that span was less effeminate than Orlando Bloom. The Vikings were the most badass of the bunch, with a reputation for taking what they wanted and burning the rest. So if you had nice stuff, you didn't want to hide it in anything flammable because then no one would get to enjoy it.
When the New World was discovered, pirates branched out and started stealing loot, or booty if you will, from exotic new places like the Caribbean. There they were apparently forced to deal with skeleton warriors and family-friendly fights to the death.
Why it Sucked:
Despite what you may think after seeing Kiera Knightley's extremely well-groomed piratess, the real world of pirates tended to involve a lot more wallowing in filth and near-starvation.
They didn't exactly have refrigerators on the boats, so basically they were restricted to eating the kind of shit that can sit in a barrel for months without rotting into slime. Hard tack was a staple of a pirate diet, dry biscuits made of flour, water and salt. They were often eaten in the dark, tapping them on the table a few times to make the weevils crawl out. When even that was unavailable, they'd occasionally resort to eating leather or slaves, if they had some handy.
That's a weevil. That's what a weevil is. It was in their food.
Day to day routine consisted of ship upkeep, the same tedious physical labor over and over, all day, every day. Also, uncontrollable shitting.
That part is thanks to scurvy, which is what happens to somebody who doesn't get enough Vitamin C in their diet. Your teeth fall out, blood runs freely from your gums and nose, and shit runs freely from your ass. If your pirate friends don't rush you to get medical care (and they won't), you'll basically diarrhea yourself to death and they roll your putrid corpse overboard.
"Did I just shit out a tooth? Aaarrr!"
Your only consolation would be the knowledge that later Disney would make an amusement park ride out of your life.
Most men, having watched a few Clint Eastwood movies, have probably thought to themselves that being a cowboy would be the coolest thing since God invented the burrito. You have a wicked hat, you have guns, you have a horse. It seems like most of your life is gambling, drinking and shooting assholes. How bad could that be?
Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and whoever the hell Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to be in that Sharon Stone movie, all made us think cowboys were king shit of the wild west.
Why it Sucked:
Cowboys were called cowboys for a reason. You're a dude who works with cows. There wasn't so much gunslinging and adventuring as there was riding alongside cattle as they slowly lumbered their way toward trains, to be loaded up and shipped north. These cattle drives were sometimes up to a 1,000 miles long, and the task of trotting along and making sure your mass army of cows didn't decide to up and head east to become sea cows, was about the most boring and smelliest job in history.
"What are we doing today, cows? Walking, and shitting? Oh, awesome, terrific."
The closest most cowboys got to excitement was wrangling cattle to be branded or castrated, because nothing says excitement quite like forcing a dim-eyed beast into a corner to have someone saw off its balls. The rest of the time the cowboy performed mundane ranch duties, stomping through ankle-high piles of cow turds the whole time. The pay was about the equivalent of working at Taco Bell.
Eventually the era of the cowboy ended. Did a new gunslinging sheriff ride into town and restore order through the barrel of a six gun? No, ranchers just figured out that the job could be done better by a few dollars worth of metal wire. The invention of the barbed wire fence pretty much rendered the cowboy obsolete, since cows have subpar fence climbing skills at best and once they were fenced in, there wasn't much need for round-ups.
Then the railroads expanded, so cattle didn't need to be walked 1,000 miles to the nearest station for shipment. The last cowboys were forced to play sad songs on the harmonica out on the open range before riding off into the sunset, which we assume means they went to join some kind of cabaret show.
The gallant medieval knight stands as a paradigm of heroism and manhood. King Arthur and his big round table full of knights are at the heart of the romantic genre that started way back in the 1130s, with references to the characters coming even earlier than that.
The idea of riding into battle on a steed while fully encased in metal and waving a sword is such an astronomically manly act that we're surprised anyone ever actually did it without their balls exploding from the testosterone. Knights made lumberjacks look like hair dressers.
Why it Sucked:
Ever wonder how a guy in over 100 lbs of steel and iron removed all that crap if he had to piss? More often than not, they didn't, and just had somebody else clean out the piss and shit later.
That part never gets mentioned in the stories, because that's all they are: stories. The romantic tradition in tales like Morte D'Arthur or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight neglect to point out that many knights started as little more than teenage mercenaries hired by land owners to defend against other neighborhood punks.
According to some scholars, chivalry was more idea than a reality, the way you say you're not going to not download porn at work but then accidentally spend five hours a day doing just that. Actual codes of chivalry were mostly ascribed to military knights, in the same way our modern military has rules and guidelines that occasionally are forgotten when someone wants to take photographs of naked prisoner pyramids.
Many pre-chivalric knights were illiterate and lived in small castles or homes built by the people who lived on the land they owned. They tended to roam the countryside looking for people of lesser status and simply taking their shit. Knights were the precursors to every aggressive douchebag you've ever run into in a bar.
Other knights who were able to restrain their asshole behavior lived simple lives of farmers and their knightly deeds were only called upon in times of need. If there was no Crusade to go on, they plowed fields and tried to farm enough food to feed themselves and their families while their armor got rusty.
That guy's the doctor, too?!?
If they ever did wind up in battle, they probably preferred instant death to wounding, since even minor wounds back then would become septic. The victim would languish in agony for days, dying while the "doctor" screamed, "None of my magic spells are helping! Add more leeches!"