The Malignant Creep of Weak Male Characters

Saturday, 24. July 2010

Greg at SynapseRPG brings up an interesting discussion from a number of years ago at Overthinking It as to why strong female characters are bad for women. I’d like to extend the discussion the opposite direction however, the modern trend to make male characters extremely weak.  It’s somewhat interesting that this just tied in the other day to a Sylvester Stallone comment in the LA Times about the fall and decline of the action hero; Something he credits to “Velcro muscles” for making male stars disposable.

I’m not particularly talking about “physically powerful” characters although that seems to be on the decline as well as Stallone commented.  Warriors throughout the ages were physically powerful without being huge as we might thing of a modern body builder.  The additional mass and loss of flexability was a hindrance past a certain point.   They needed power, endurance and speed, with strength coming in lets say 4th.

What I’m talking about in terms of weakness is to portray men more and more as bumbling fools.  Major characters are Homer Simpson and Peter Griffonesque.  They succeed because of lucky circumstances, not through any sort of clever or thought out action.  If by chance they happen to be reasonably intelligent, then they fall to one of the obvious old maxims.   They’re greedy, sexist, womanizing, stupid, lazy or in some cases just flat out psychotic.

I’m not suggesting that male characters don’t have to have weaknesses, simply that they cannot for the sake of good fiction (or society for that matter.) continue to fall upon the same sword over and over.  Give them strengths and weaknesses, as well as virtues and vices.  These are things to work around and overcome, not continue to use the same crutch over and over.

This is setting a horrible example as any sort of role models.  I think it’s as off putting to new players as anything for having assumed characteristics through modern media.  Who wants to save the country when the king and every guy in it are bumbling idiots. (Yeah, we’d conquer it, geez Grey.)  People need something to look up to and strong male figures regardless of their vices are required.  Trouble is there because there is real trouble, and not because idiocy caused it.  Thinking, planning, overcoming or working around weaknesses or perceived weaknesses are the way to victory.

I think a good fresh approach as well as a paradigm shift in the way people are modernly played will be a good draw to new or formerly disinterested players in general. Does anyone else see it this way?

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