Four heroes who make masculinity look exhausting

1 Indiana Jones

indiana jones, bashed again
indiana jones, bashed again

Indy’s a good lad who is not afraid to break the rules of academic objectivity and non-violence in the pursuit of an ancient artefact or a smoking-hot Nazi. He’s a strong fighter, but he’s rarely strong enough. I remember feeling every punch when he’s beaten up by that strong guy underneath the grounded airplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor Indy’s face gets totally battered. Fortunately there’s a propeller that Indy can push the bad guy into. If it wasn’t for that propeller I’m not sure Indy would have survived that fight. It’s one reason why he’s a great hero; he’s always on the verge of failing, so it keeps us on our toes.

He does look knackered though. Fighting is bloody tough, especially when you’re not a trained killer, who is the kind of person Indy has to slug it out with frequently. But what choice does he have? He’s a bloke in a world of violent and muscly men who are trying to take over the world (Nazis at worst; crazy cultists at best). Indy decides to play them at their own game of violence and it almost always nearly breaks him.

2 Jack Bauer, 24

Jack Bauer, when did you last have a wee?
Jack Bauer, when did you last have a wee?

It’s probably just because he’s been up all night but Jack Bauer always looks a bit haggard, doesn’t he? When you’re on a 24/7 hunt for a terrorist who’s going to bomb the city (or something), there’s no time to lose. He’s got brains and he’s been trained how to use a gun—all good things in a man. He’s even got colleagues but, ultimately, we know that the safety of toddlers in their beds lies on Jack’s shoulders. He’s the main man. Why do men sometimes take on the weight of the world? How does Jack stay awake for so long? When does he have a wee?

3 Jon Snow, Game of Thrones

Jon Snow, more bad news
Jon Snow, more bad news

He’s the bastard son of Ned Stark, so there’s a sense of recklessness about Jon Snow. There are no standards he can live up to because, as a bastard, he’s already fallen. On the other hand, he does totally go for it, doesn’t it? He tries to be brave and fearless, a dependable warrior and even a tactical thinker. He even tries to be a good lover to Ygritte, although he hasn’t had much experience. Contrast Jon’s sulky, grunty, taciturn character with those times when he’s intimate with Ygritte. I know there’s a lot going on there (she’s a wildling and therefore could chop his cock off at any moment), but he’s a different person when they get into that hot tub in the cave together. And when he’s bantering with her as they roam about the landscape.

So sometimes he’s a reckless fighter and a loyal member of the band of brothers that is the Night’s Watch, but when he strips off and cuddles Ygritte he’s a different person. Who’s the real man? How exhausting must it be to play being a soldier one minute and then play being a gentle lover the next? It makes you realise you know nothing about Jon Snow.

4 Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager

Kathryn Janeway, bridge over troubled water
Kathryn Janeway, bridge over troubled water

“Coffee, black.” Janeway’s job as captain of a starship lost in the delta quadrant was so stressful that she needed the strongest of coffees just to start the day. It was brilliant to see a female starship captain at the helm of a major TV show—but she did have to be a bit manly, didn’t she? First, there was that deep, robotic voice she had. And I don’t think you ever heard her shout or scream, the way powerful women aren’t allowed to do. By contrast, Ben Sisko and Jean-Luc Picard, her contemporaries, used to shout all the time. Women tend to be seen as shrill and irrational if they shout; men are just assertive and passionate.

Second, she carried the weight of an entire crew of explorers lost in space. You always got the feeling that she took personal responsibility for having stranded her crew and for wanting to get them home—and didn’t try to share this burden with her second-in-command much. It’s a characteristically male style of leadership when a person accepts that the buck stops with them. It’s male because it’s been men who have always done this previously as they have been the only ones asked to lead. It’s a shame that Janeway didn’t have a different leadership style. Every so often she would literally let her hair down, sit with a drink on her sofa and relax, and you realised she was a human just like the rest of us (if not her entire crew). Her performance on the bridge of her ship was just that—a performance, and a performance of masculinity.


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