In a world of increasing gender fluidity, we find ourselves at a rocky, masculinity impasse: what does it mean to be male in the 21st century?
As we navigate our way through a Kafka-esque labyrinth of social acceptability, who can the modern man look to for guidance to reinforce what manhood really means? Has masculinity become an anachronistic construct in a world desperate to find balance through equality of the sexes? Or can equality be reinforced by alpha behaviors that we’d all like to demonstrate, regardless of our birth gender?
Here are five of manliest movie characters every big movieholic wish could be. And perhaps, along the way, we can examine how we can all become a little more like them.
1. Indiana Jones
A lecturing university professor whose obsession with historical artifacts sends him around the world on hazardous archeological digs. OK – as elevator pitches go, that one’s drying up quickly. But, to his credit, he can hold down several jobs in synchronicity.
Jones is surely the ultimate beacon of masculinity, and one of the great male archetypes from whom we could all glean something positive. A man of true action, he might lack a little oratory charisma in the lecture hall, but he certainly makes up it for in dedication to the cause.
His research missions restore balance to the planet: returning artifacts to their rightful owners and defeating Nazis hell-bent on world domination.
Quick on his feet, a whizz with a whip, and a smooth-talker to boot, Indiana Jones could charm the hind-legs off of the proverbial donkey. And he never gives up.
One of Indy’s most manly moments has to be in the Temple of Doom: on the run from a murderous cult and trapped in the middle of a creaky old rope bridge – enemies approaching from either end. He ties his foot precariously around an unreliable-looking piece of string, and hacks at the supporting rope. Rock hard.
2. James Bond
James Bond is a rainbow of contradictions – a gentleman and a womanizer; with both brain and brawn; a hero and a killer. That’s quite a worrying combination of character traits for a man who holds a License to Kill. He’s a shoot-first talk-later kind of guy.
Perhaps, in some incarnations, James is an anachronistic parody of 1980s throw-away sexism – but in each of his incarnations, his actions reflect the times. And, thankfully, those times have changed.
Take the Roger Moore school of Bonding – he rarely has a hair out of place, with women inexplicably falling at his feet; and when he does get into a scuffle, it’s fought with a distinctly lackadaisical nonchalance, leaning much closer to camp than Herculian.
But some Bonds are manlier than others – hitting the pinnacle in his current incarnation as the fight-hard, die-hard, nearly-die-trying Daniel Craig.
Bond is determined, single-minded, dashing, and self-assured. He fights for the good, even if it’s not always completely clean combat. But who doesn’t need a little bit of that in their life?
3. The Terminator
OK – stick with me on this one.
Firstly, Arnie’s titular Terminator, played with all the panache of a dining table chair, goes on a journey – from total bad-ass who refuses to die, to good guy protecting the characters he was out to destroy earlier in the franchise.
Schwarzenegger’s T-800 embodies everything that’s uber-manly – the physique of a Greek god; the single-minded objective to kill or protect; and who could ever forget the hilarious one-liners? It seems that even this most testosterone-driven android from a terrible fate has a hidden, sensitive side. He probably knits in private.
If there was ever a bad-guy cum good-guy that you’d want protecting you from super-androids on a mission to kick your ass into next week, it’s going to be Arnie’s T-800. The brain of a computer; the brawn of a machine; the charm of a microwave oven. We could all be a little more Arnie.
4. Han Solo
Han might be a self-interested opportunist, sharing a hunk of junk with a growling walking carpet, but he’s the total epitome of masculine bad-ass who finds a conscience.
From his opening scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, this scruffy nerf-herder confronts the no-nonsense Greedo; leaving no doubt that Han is the guy you’d want to shoot across the galaxy at light-speed with. Of questionable ethics, perhaps, this loner goes on a transformation journey through this classic series of movies, from rooky trier to team-player of the Rebellion.
We grow to love this trigger-happy freedom fighter, battling against the Dark Side for the principles he comes to believe in. Han Solo is a truly great role model; without any of the sugar-coating.
5. John McClane
John McClane was the real turning point for actor, Bruce Willis; who’d risen to fame as the wise-cracking David Addison – love interest of Cybill Shepherd’s Maddie Hayes – in the glorious comedy detective series, Moonlighting.
McClane is probably Willis’s most notorious role, firmly planting him in the Hall of Fame of good guys unafraid of spending a day off fending innocent civilians from evil terrorists with unreasonable demands.
McClane is rock hard, with a determination that’s unswayed by gunfire or dodgy South African accents. He might break into a serious sweat, getting gravely injured along the way, but his die-hard determination makes McClane a role model of strength, justice, and a life-long advocate of the unbranded, white T-shirt.
So, when the world is awash with contradictions, we can always look back and admire the man; unafraid to be strong when strength is demanded, and sensitive when sensitivity helps him win the day.
Determination, strategic mastery, and a can-do attitude go a long way in reinforcing the alpha traits of the manliest characters of the silver screen and way beyond.