What makes a strong male lead?
EelKat on Character Creation

A strong male lead...

A strong male lead

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by archer88iMonday at 8:16 PM.

Earlier, I somehow got talking about this with a friend. I might have been complaining that media these days is not allowed to portray a strong male protagonist (but you'll never prove it). Anyway, they came back with a long list of characters that, for them, embodied the idea of a strong male character--none of which would have fit my description.

That made me curious: in your estimation, what makes a strong male protagonist? Feel free to name examples.

In the interest of reducing the potential for friction, I would ask that everyone refrain from criticizing others' thoughts on the subject. I promise not to tell you you're crazy provided that you don't do it to anyone else. 

Edit: I don't like to express my own opinion in threads like these, but it may be helpful for me to say that I am not referring to "well-written" characters, but rather to characters that are powerful or admirable. "Heroic" implies a moral judgment that would be going too far, I think, for my purposes, but I'm definitely not talking about the quality of the writing or characterization. For instance, Grima Wormtongue could be a well-written character, but he's a weak-ass piece of shit.

Someone mentioned Blackhawk Down. If you recall Eric Bana's character (before he somehow turned into Dr. David Banner? ...Which I call seven kinds of bullshit...), Hoot, there's a scene where he embodies most of what I think about when I think of a strong, masculine role. The man operating the .50 BMG on the roof of Hoot's vehicle is hit and killed, at which point the occupants of the vehicle look stunned for a moment before the driver demands, "Get the .50 up! Someone get the .50 up!"

Hoot responds with, "It's mine."

Not, "I'll do it if no one else will." Not, "If you want me to." He says with certainty and finality that this duty belongs to him and no one else--even though he is not more responsible for the discharge of said duty than any other man present. I have admired that moment ever since I saw the movie for the first time. I have admired it so much that I think about it any time I'm waffling about whether or not to agree to something potentially annoying or unpleasant (although, thankfully, no one has ever been shooting at me at the time). I think that willingness to--without hesitation--go above and beyond the call of duty (and that may sound cheesy, but there's just no other way to say it) which nations across the world commemorate with their highest awards for valor, is one of the key components for me. This is, however, relates to another component that bothers me a little bit, because I feel that it runs counter to one of the more popular sentiments expressed above.

Take a look at the characters listed here and count for yourself: how many of them survive to the end credits? How many of them get "happily ever after" and how many get a white cross, or a mass grave, or even just a poem like "In Flanders Fields" instead? A quick glance at the post just above mine as I write this suggests the survival rate is not much higher than 50%. As I mentioned, this, to me, suggests a second component which seems to me to mark a kind of gender boundary between the male and the female, contrary to what some have proposed here. Strong, male characters are characterized not simply by a willingness to accept responsibility for others, but by a willingness to sacrifice for them--up to and often including laying down their own lives.

For me, as an American who likes a good, Hollywood ending without either Maximus, or Leonidas, or Captain John H. Miller dying just before the credits roll, there is a third component to the "strong, male character" that I lament. It's one you get primarily with the James Bonds (although not recently--at least not to the same degree) and the Han Solos, and maybe the Indiana Joneses, although I'm not sure that I should be naming two Harrison Ford characters in one paragraph... That component is winning.

The important part there is winners go home. It seems to me that, all too often, one of the requirements of being a heroic badass is that you can never go home. As I reflect on this truth, I guess I have to admit that this is not really a new development; it's something inherent in Western culture. Something that goes all the way back to the Iliad, which is the story of a heroic badass who chooses to be remembered forever rather than to live long and prosper. Maybe that's what annoys the crap out of me as I look at movies like 300, where Leonidas leaves a grieving widow and a young son, and I compare them against movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, where a lovable dumbass saves the day and gets the girl.

For reference, "bravado" already has its own definition: it describes a show of bravery intended as a facade--an appearance not backed up by action. I mention this because the "old school" definition for bravery, to me, evokes echoes of the Charge of the Light Brigade, which is definitely not an example of bravado.

When I think of a strong male lead, I think of a father figure. Someone you can look up to. Someone who's reliable. There when you need him. A protector. Kind. Gentle. Fair. Not quick to anger. A man who puts family first. Someone who puts others first. Willing to stand up for the weak, sick, and poor. Doesn't take advantage of others. Dares to choose the right. Stands up for justice. Doesn't use God as a cop-out excuse. 

  • The Doctor - Doctor Who (esp Tom Baker's version)
  • Uncle Scrooge McDuck (Walt Disney comics)
  • Lord Sesshomaru (InuYasha by Rumiko Takahashi)
  • Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christmas Carol)
  • Capt James T Kirk - Star Trek (OTS)
  • Dr. McCoy - Star Trek (OTS)
  • Capt Jack Harkness (Torchwood)
  • Indiana Jones
  • Han Solo - Star Wars
  • Prof. Severus Snape (Harry Potter)
  • James Bond (esp Sean Connery's version)
  • James Retief (Retief series by Keith Laumer)
  • Angel (Buffy & Angel)
  • Spike (Buffy & Angel)
  • Walsh (Firefly)
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Columbo 
  • that sailor from U-571 (I forget his name)
  • Jonathan the Angel (Highway to Heaven)
  • Pa Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)
  • Zorro (all versions)
  • Jimmy Stewart in everything
  • Cary Grant in everything.
  • Vincent Price in everything.
  • Alan Rickman in everything.

Does Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow quality? I'm not sure he'd qualify. He's a bit of a whack-a-doodle.

I know, most of them are tv shows and movies, but whenever I think of strong male characters, these are always the first men (Ducks, Dogs, Demons, and Vampires) to come to mind.

It is getting late and I am getting too tired to type more right now. I will come back to this to type up more to explain my logic and reasoning behind the characters I picked.

I think Doctor Who is the overall #1 first place for a strong leading male. He's always looking out for the health and safety of others, always there when you need him, always striving to do the right thing, quick to protect the weak and innocent. Always seeks the least violent answer.

Wondering if I write strong male characters?

Quaraun definitely doesn't classify. He's a coward. Very submissive. Extreme beta male.

Unicorn could be, if he wasn't so violent and crude. Very dominate. Somewhat of a ruffian. Can be a bully. Not a good role model.

GhoulSpawn possibly could classify as strong at times, but for the most part he's a scatterbrained ditz. Definitely a beta male, quick to submit.

Roderic? Paranoia on a stick. Major whack-a-doodle.

AlKeeme? Hmmm...maybe.... but he's rather stoic. Very robotic. Self absorbed. Ruthless. His alter ego is also the worst super villain in the series.

Harrier. Yes. But he's a bit of a vindictive, unforgiving bad ass. He's not the evil villain people mistake him for though. He dislikes violences and seeks a peaceful solution to everything. Perhaps the most dominate of the alpha males, he rarely has to do more then glare menacingly at someone to get his way.

The Dazzling Razzbury? No. He's too busy hallucinating. Biggest whack-a-doodle of the series.

Wvoodell. Yes. Definitely. But he's an incredibly minor character.

Phozeen. Yes. No one pushes him around and he's very caring about others.

I am noticing that I have a tendency towards writing very submissive beta males as my leading characters.

I do know the reason for this. I grow up with very abusive men. My uncles were vicious men, quick to anger, very violent, often beating their wives, sisters, children, and nieces and nephews with tables, chairs, bricks, and crow bars. These violent attacks were instigated by things such as not accurately being able to memorize the entire book of Genesis word for word.

All of my uncles were over 6 feet tall. The tallest being 6'7", the meanest being 6'4".

I have a phobia of men in general, tall men in particular, and violent men especially.

You see me writing smaller, weaker, gentler males as they are the men I feel safer around.

Quaraun: 5'6". Shy, gentle, timid, coward. Very submissive to other males. Backs done from fights. Slow to anger. Prefers to spend his time reading, sewing, and growing roses. Extreme beta male, with almost no self will or self esteem. Suicidally depressed. Prone to habitually cutting his wrists. Opium addict. Is rather stupid, had a low IQ, lacking in the ability to think logically. Very high strung and overly emotional. Often very childish. Has Autism. Roderic's grandfather. Builder of The Twighlight Manor.

Unicorn: 5'1". Very dominate by also very protective. Probably the most aggressive and most violent of the alpha males. Quick to defend his family. Puts those he cares about first. Short tempered, prone to violent outbursts. Candy maker, master chef, cake decorator. Chemist. Drug dealer. Maker of Opium and LSD. Sex addict. Former rapist, murder, war lord, and serial killer. Cannibal.

GhoulSpawn: 5'10". Very gentle, animal loving, tree-hugging hippie. Promoter of peace and love. Advocate of banning guns and war. A very gentle beta male. Somewhat of a Pollyanna, he looks for the good in everything and every one. LSD addict, prone to wild psychedelic hallucinations. Sex addict. Often accompanied by prostitutes. Has a charismatic ability to attract women to him. Described as mesmerizingly beautiful.

Roderic: 5'3". Lord of the Twighlight Manor. Deeply devoted to family. Extreme introvert. Keeps to himself. Has advanced Paranoid Schizophrenia. Prone to wild delusions and hallucinations. Believes his house is alive and is trying to kill him. (It actually is, but no one believes him.) Has Autism and Selective Mutism. Rarely able to effectively communicate with those around him.

AlKeeme: 6'2". An alpha male. Quiet. Keeps to himself. Viciously defends his privacy. Cold. Emotionless. Extremely high IQ. Scientist. Inventor. Alchemist. Thinks in a Spock-like logic. Has most of the planet terrified to breath in his presence. Charismatic cult leader. Quick to cull/sacrifice the weak. Also known as The Lansquin. One of the few characters who can be truly seen as evil. Roderic's butler and caretaker. Extremely devoted to and protective of Roderic. Will defend Roderic at all costs. Can, will, and has murdered to protect Roderic's honour. The Twighlight Manor's evil butler.

Harrier: 5'8". Soft spoken, but commanding. Extreme alpha male. Takes a very dominant stance with others, that allows him to get his way quickly and without violence. While gives off the air of being a bully capable of doing great harm, he actually is quick to back down if his authority is challenged. While actually very gentle, he takes an authoritative stance that gets people to obey him without question, often without his having to say a word.

The Dazzling Razzbury: 5'10". Another of Roderic's sons. Extremely timid beta male. Very paranoid. Prone to anxiety attacks. Very submissive. Often seen by others as a coward. Typically keeps to himself. Very quiet. Always reading. Quick to hide. Avoids people in general.

Wvoodell: 5'10". Alpha male. Like Harrier is very dominating and able to get his way with little effort. Casino owner. Gun runner. Gangster. Puts family first. Very gentle with those he loves, excessively violent with deemed threats. Fierce protector of the family. Doesn't think twice about pulling out a machine gun and slaughtering anyone who threatens the family. Roderic's oldest son. Very protective of his invalid father.

Phozeen: 5'10". Roderic's grandson. Scientist. Analytical. Thinks logically. Has a hard time showing outward signs of emotion. Prone to overthinking things. Worries excessively. Short tempered, but quick to back down from a fight. Very protective of his family. Can become violently protective when his daughter or grandchildren are in danger. Is not an alpha male, but also not a beta male.

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