Sometimes There’s a Man: Who’s the World’s Most Masculine Guy?

Close your eyes. If I say the word “masculine,” who is the first familiar face that you see?

Who’s the man?

Post your choice in the Comments.

For most people, it’ll probably be somebody famous… an action movie star or an athlete or a rock star. Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Lebron James. Denzel Washington. John Wayne. Bruce Willis. Bradley Cooper. Idris Elba. Justin Timberlake. Liam Neeson. Daniel Craig. Bruce Springsteen.

Masculinity is usually associated with strength, aggression, and virility. But should those be the aspects that make a man attractive and admirable? It seems that the popular idea of “the man” has changed very little in my lifetime. Outside of various fashion-related details — the Tom Selleck mustache, for example — the iconic male remains predictably muscular, brawny, temperamental, and prone to displays of strength.

Will that ever change? Should we hope that it does?

Me, my idea of an “ideal man” is quite different. It has more to do with character than physicality, more to do with creativity and self-control and contemplation than feats of strength.

On Monday, May 13, at Hale’s Ales Brewery and Pub in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, I’ll be on a panel with the impressively masculine Dr. Jeff Keuss and the connossieur of masculinity Dr. Christine Chaney for another Kindlings Muse discussion hosted by Jennie Spohr.

Our subject? “The New Masculinity and the Changing Face of Action Flicks.”

We’ll explore how American culture defines and represents masculinity.

We’ll talk about how masculinity is personified in comic book heroes… and whether those characteristics are accurate, overzealous, or absurd.

And we’ll ask if we can see cultural changes by looking at trends in action movies over the last several decades. What did the Han Solo of the 1970s tell us about culture’s ideal man? What about the Indiana Jones of The Last Crusade, a decade later? What does the new James Bond tell us about ourselves compared to the Bond of Goldfinger?

Make your dinner reservation here.

Who says we can’t start the conversation now?

Let’s give ‘em something to talk about. If you had to name the best icon of masculinity on the big screen, or in popular culture, today… who takes the crown?

And here’s a bonus question: What movie or television show best explores questions about masculinity?

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  • Camille Calilung

    Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck. Not brawny or loud but intellectually, a giant. But also a a gentleman. Quiet strength and modest masculinity (never apologetic).

  • Mark

    With that title, I couldn’t see anyone besides The Dude.

  • http://sycrosd4.deviantart.com Tyrone Barnes

    Man I wish I could hear this. For me, the first thing that came to my mind was Indiana Jones. Second was Batman. I’ll come back to you on that.

  • margaret

    For a classic TV example, MacGyver comes to mind – known for his resourceful, non-violent resolutions to conflicts and for refusing to handle a gun. There’s a foundation for people aligned with this role model.
    http://macgyverglobal.com/foundation/

  • David H.

    The first film that jumps to mind is “Roger Dodger” with Campbell Scott and a young Jesse Eisenberg. Others that occur to me are “Magnolia,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” and maybe even Whit Stillman’s “Last Days of Disco.”

  • Ignatius

    Charleton Heston was the guy who popped into my mind first. Looking forward to this panel.

  • Nahalie

    The first man that pops into my head is certainly my husband – he is a really great man – 30 years together and I admire him more today then when I first met him!!

    But on the screen I would have to say – Bruce Willis in The Kid and in Diehard – he is not in touch with himself in The Kid but finds his “little boy” self and allows his adult self to love that broken and lost part which in turn heals him and helps him to learn to accept these weaknesses and in Diehard he does what it takes to save others! :-) Much like the perfect man Jesus!

    Of course Jesus really is the ultimate man – lays his life down for the sake of others, brings justice to the broken and imprisoned, gives mercy to the dark soul and lavishes His grace that restores us to beauty…all the while He is in commune with His Father and community with other men and women so He isn’t a do it yourself, lone wolf, island unto himself – kind of guy!

  • http://www.jlspohr.com Jennie

    Honestly, the first person that came to my mind was my husband. Cue the “Aw.” But I think part of the reason I married him was because he fit my view of the “masculine” I wanted to be with. He’s a George Clooney meets Jimmy Stewart meets Mr. Rogers kinda guy. Which certainly isn’t the generic “manly,” but it’s *my* manly. I think it will be also interesting to explore the difference in perception of what is manly for men and for women…

    And thanks Jeffrey, for the fantastic plug!

  • David Germer

    I love Evan’s choice of The Man Who Wasn’t There, in terms of films that explore manhood. Other favorites for me: The Mission (comparing and contrasting Father Gabriel and Mendoza), King of Kong (comparing and contrasting Steve and Billy), A Man for All Seasons (Thomas More), and I would even throw in some slightly less serious (but still meaningful) explorations of manhood: Punch-Drunk Love, Raising Arizona, Lars and the Real Girl, and Win Win.

  • David Germer

    I wish the first person who popped into my head was a little more original, a little less old-school and stereotypically “manly”… but on the other hand, I have absolutely no shame in saying that Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights should be pictured next to the word “man” in the dictionary. When it comes to changing perceptions of manhood, Coach Taylor allows us to have our man cake and eat it, too. He is a strong, no nonsense football coach who will get in someone’s face when he’s mad, is ready to throw-down when someone flirts with his wife or threatens one of his players, and his home life consists of b-b-g, trying to fix the AC, drinking beer, and watching sports… and yet… he is also a loving father, an amazingly devoted and supportive husband, willing to apologize, ready to stand up for what is right even at great cost to himself, and constantly seeking the best for his players and constantly pushing his players to live into what he sees in them by investing in their lives. This is just scratching the surface- 5 seasons of FNL should definitively answer, “who’s the man?”: Coach Eric Taylor.

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    For me, probably Gregory Peck. (my somewhat related piece)

  • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

    I’ll admit it. First person to pop into my head on hearing “masculine:” Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, which I hope was subconsciously influenced by another Christian Bale character, who does personify a great example of masculinity in my mind.

    Best big screen icons of masculinity: Christian Bale in The New World, Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, and Jim Caviezel in The Thin Red Line.

    What movie best explores questions of masculinity: hmmm. Right now, the best example I can come up with is The Man Who Wasn’t There, a Coen film that I feel is an underrated masterpiece, and repeatedly asks “What kind of man are you?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/richardravalli1 Richard Ravalli

    Personally, I think film historian Tom Shone has got something when he examines the indirect affect that CGI had on the size of the action hero coming into the 1990s: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2013/apr/01/jurassic-park-3d-rerelease-spielberg?INTCMP=SRCH

    Arnie was out, Keanu was in. A different kind of macho, it seems to me.


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