A New Model for Non-toxic Masculinity?
Check out this piece from guest blogger Julio Cortes about the character of Jamie in the TV series Outlander.
I’ll admit it. I am a huge fan of the Outlander series, and I am not a wannabe alpha hoping to be a real man like Jamie.
I feel the need to share that bit because a lot of guys end up watching the show to please their wives/girlfriends and then end up being compared to the rugged, smart, dashing, adventurous, sensitive and manly man that Jamie represents, often unfavorably.
This has become a phenomenon. I have heard of many man wanting to be Jamie, have his gifts and simple, powerful ways. And I hear a lot of men who hate him passionately for ruining their chances with woman, as they now have very high, seemingly, unrealistic expectations. There are many women I know who have fights with their husbands for not being like Jamie and other women refusing to date because they can’t ever find some as good as him.
I even have a therapist friend who uses the character of Jamie to help men be more intimate with their partners, and, in some cases, help men change their mindsets and behaviors to be more aware in this post Me-too era.
So, as a privileged white male, who is not Scottish nor as excellent with money and languages, what is a man to do? All joking aside, I think this is actually a great problem to have.
In the movies and literature, we have many male characters to choose from. Most are strong and silent outsiders (Rambo, Wolverine, Batman). Some are sophisticated like James Bond. But very few are strong, sophisticated and sensitive like Jamie.
We do see a little of this in characters like Edward in the Twilight and Harry in the Harry Potter series, but both of these (along with many of a similar kind) are geared towards young adults, not adults, like the Outlander books, and we need adults to be looking at this.
With Jamie you have a man who is not only strong and almost perfect but you also have one who is also laden with great baggage. Don’t forget that he was violently tortured and raped in the first book and had to deal with his wife being raped more than once. Yet, not only does he come back from that, he is open minded enough to have a strong connection to a homosexual man. This is not what you will find with most heroes. Jamie is really really alpha, yet he is sensitive to his wife, sister and later his daughter’s needs. He is a man that responds to his women. This is not what we see in our modern heroes.
The question is why? Wouldn’t the world be better with men like this? I think so.
And, the fact is that most of the stories we see are about traditionally attractive men doing conventionally masculine things. They are stories written by men for men, with women being a secondary audience. Jamie defies this, and yet is still very popular.
I think it is because he is a product of the feminine gaze tempered with years working in a traditionally masculine world. Diana Gabaldon was a Marine Biologist and Computer Programmer, both professions dominated by men. And when she wrote Outlander she did it as an experiment that she shared with her friends in an internet writer’s chat room. She also had experience writing comics.
Because of this background and her great ability to research and tell a good story, she was able to tap into a different view of the archetypal male. Her hero is less Achilles and more Odysseus. He is a wanderer who used his cleverness to reach his goals but was not above using fisticuffs to settle a matter. And like Odysseus, he was a faithful man who loved his country and his wife.
Although I truly believe that this character is unique and powerful, I can see that he does have antecedents. But what is most important and interesting is that he is alive and well here and now when we really need him. Diana Gabaldon has created a compelling character that already has 9 books and many short stories written about him, as well as a successful TV series. And it is not just women consuming her stories. Many men like me are as well.
This character is showing us an interesting, maybe even, new way for men to be. In this new way, the man can be decisive and strong, but can also be considerate, apologetic and willing to make amends. Wouldn’t we all want men like that in our lives? I mean seriously, when was the last time one heard their father or brother own up to a mistake. I never did, but I was that for my kids and family.
And Jamie loved his strong woman, supporting her in becoming a great healer. He was not only good with the fact that she challenged him, he welcomed it. In a world where many men are threatened by their women making more money or being able to achieve more, we can use examples of strong men collaborating with an equally strong partner who compliments him.
He also loved his woman so much that he was willing to let her go. This is an example of true love that we see women exhibiting time and again, but rarely do we see that in men, especially young men in love. Yet Jamie does this, endearing himself to Claire and to us more and more.
Being Jamie may be a stretch, but, like Yoga, it is a good type of stretching. We all can and would do better in this life if we had more Jamies around, as friends, lovers, brothers.
So what’s left is to be the change I would like to see in the world. My first step is imitate Jamie, so that I can share the goodness with those in my life. And by doing this, I can help other men to learn about him and see how this way of being helps us all. And then the revolution will hopefully be televised.
Julio Cortes is a relationship coach.