There’s a new type of male protagonist appearing in Hollywood big-budget films, and it’s about time. Historically, leading men in these films have been mostly tough-as-nails dudes you’d never catch within a five-foot range of a real feeling. Though there’s no denying the badassery of men like Bruce Willis’ John McClane, Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo or Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, the status quo drastically needs a change. The new main male characters are now starting to resemble real people, not caricatures, where they have respect for those around them, especially women, and realize that their ability to do good is all the motivation they need.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
A rather noticeable deviation from the norm was in the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt Scamander. We got to see a male lead who wasn’t afraid to show his love for his friends and for the magical animals he cared for. One of the many examples of this is when he’s visiting with the creatures he cares for, and refers to himself as their mother. Not something you’d likely see the Terminator do. He showed millions of viewers around the world that showing vulnerability didn’t make him weak or any less capable than his other male counterparts.
Source: Lionsgate, Saban Films
Another movie that changed things up was the 2017 inclusive superhero movie Power Rangers. For those unfamiliar with it, the main cast comprised of three men (Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, and Ludi Lin) and two women (Naomi Scott and Becky G). Instead of writing the guys as “manly-men” or “dudebro” characters, we got three unique individuals who were able to cry, show they cared, be afraid and realize their female teammates were just as capable. Probably one the of the better examples of this is when –spoiler alert! – Jason is shown crying after Billy is killed. Some other good examples are when Zack tells the others how much he loves his mom and how afraid he is of losing her, and Billy giving away the upper hand to save his friends’ lives. The best part? The movie didn’t congratulate itself; it just was. For a movie that got so much right, I’m glad it got this right too.
Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Another great example of this new type of character is Finn from the new Star Wars movies, played by John Boyega. Finn, when presented with the chance, did the right thing by saving Poe from The First Order despite it being the only thing he knew at that point. Later, when he meets Rey, he recognizes that she’s capable of handling things on her own. When they interact, you never feel like he’s trying to stifle her or take away her agency, but that he cares for her as a friend and wants to help her anyway he can. He is a person of colour within a major sci-fi series that isn’t demonized or thought lesser of because of it. Instead, time and time again he’s shown as extremely loyal, hardworking and willing to do the right thing, making him the perfect example of this new type of protagonist.
Source: Sony Pictures Releasing
Last, but definitely not least, is Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker. Holland himself said he based his characterization off of Marty McFly from Back to the Future, one of the better non-macho characters in cinema’s history. Holland’s Peter Parker is one that isn’t afraid to use his heart as his moral compass. He’s a character who treats others with respect, and isn’t afraid to show how he feels. We see this clearly at the end of the film when Peter decides to save a bystander instead of capturing the bad guys, showing he cares more about helping than catching another criminal. This Spider-Man feels more like a real teenager than the ones past, and it’s what makes the movie even better.
The protagonist male characters of old need a revamping. The toxic masculinity they portray is doing more harm than good at this point, and what better way to combat it than by creating the antithesis of it? It’s characters like the ones mentioned above, as well as ones like Marvel’s Thor and Steve Trevor from Wonder Woman that are changing the game for the better. Hopefully Hollywood keeps on this path and we see more and more of these refreshing characters!