We’ve come to accept the immature, directionless, tactless male character as a staple of sitcoms and movies. On the screen, it’s usually only after the right (successful and attractive) woman comes along that he finds a reason to spend his days on a purpose greater than pot, porn, or Grand Theft Auto.
And while this stereotype holds some truth (as any woman who has ever dated a college-age male will attest), it’s not fair to blanket all guys as uninspired losers—a truth that directors and scriptwriters sometimes acknowledge. Here are a few of our favorite male characters that do justice to some of the strong and sweet guys out there.
Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Lindsay Ray
Atticus Finch is like a gentle giant of morality. He’s the dad that everyone wants. What makes the movie version of Atticus so special is the quiet presence of Gregory Peck. He gives the character gentility and a stoic gravitas. Finch’s commitment to doing what is right is the foundation of the movie. Who can forget the scene where Atticus takes a gun, removes his glasses and shoots a rabid dog in the street? Atticus does what needs to be done but not by losing his sense of self and his compassion.
John Clasky, Spanglish, by Tara Cavanaugh
Adam Sandler is great at playing losers. Which is why I was shocked at how well he played John Clasky, a father and chef in Spanglish. Clasky is the emotional support for his family, especially for the preteen daughter who has a rocky relationship with her cold, hyper-type-A mother played by Tea Leoni. Leoni’s character, Deb, actually has rocky relationships with most of the characters, as she pushes her impossible standards for success on all of the loved ones in her life. But not Clasky. He works not for success, but stability. He’s shown gently helping his daughter through her academic struggles, wrangling with too much acclaim as a chef, trying to coach Deb away from a nervous breakdown, and trying to stop himself from falling for the kind housekeeper/nanny Flor (played by the gorgeous Paz Vega).
Clasky doesn’t want fame and fortune; he just wants to do his job well and take care of his family. And not even a genuine, tender and reciprocated affection for Flor, or a cheating Deb, distracts him from that dedication.
Kenneth Parcell (the Page), “30 Rock,” by Lindsay Patton
The worst thing Kenneth Parcell has done in his life – or at least in the past four seasons “30 Rock” – is steal cable. Out of every neurotic, self-obsessed, power-hungry and downright insane character residing in 30 Rockefeller, Parcell represents the voice of reason. A Southern gentleman at heart, he loves his mama, eats his sack lunch at his page desk, says his two favorite things are “everybody and television”, and finishes every sentence with a polite “sir” or “ma’am.”
Han Solo, Star Wars series, by Ivy Ashe
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: Han Solo is a scoundrel. He says as much to Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. This is a guy who makes a living smuggling goods for a crime lord, subscribes to the ‘shoot or be shot’ way of life, takes crap from no one, and cares about the ins and outs of his own life, not the larger issue of war*. Unlike that farm kid Luke, he’s not innocent or naïve in any sense. He’s been around.
People remember the scoundrel line because it goes along with everything we think we know about Han Solo. But he then claims to be a nice man, which tends to get forgotten in the wake of both the absurdity of the statement (smooth-talking badass Han Solo a mere “nice man”? Madness) and the kiss that comes afterwards. We brush it off as more of Han’s excellent banter. Solo, you crazy joker, you.
The thing is, Han Solo really is a nice guy. In fact, he’s nice to the point where he’d be a pretty boring straight-arrow if not for all of the Millennium Falcon/smuggling/bounty-on-his-head business (admittedly, that all goes a long way to undoing the boring factor). When we first meet him, he’s not racing around hyperspace or blasting space creatures. He’s trying to pay off a debt. Yawn.
If it weren’t for Han’s sense of honor and responsibility, Luke Skywalker would have died three times over (probably more, but I lose track easily) before he could ever get around to saving the galaxy. Who else but Honorable Han would go out in the middle of an ice storm on an ice planet to rescue his friend? Or calmly surrender to carbonite freezing because he doesn’t want anybody to get hurt while saving him? There would still be a Death Star if it weren’t for Han coming back to do the right thing (so much for not caring about the larger issues). There’d still be a work-in-progress Death Star! The world is much better off without these things in it.
So yes, Han Solo, we know you’re a badass and a scoundrel and that you shot Greedo first. But we’re on to that other side of you, too. It wasn’t just the banter talking.
Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, Grey’s Anatomy, by Erin O’Neill
Oh, McDreamy. You spawned a legion of Mc(insert euphemism for attractive male here)s. And even if you did cheat on your wife with Meredith Grey, our dark and twisty heroine, at the end of the second season you’re still so wonderful that it almost doesn’t matter. He’s the guy who stays with his wife who cheated on him, (FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON OF AGONY!) because it’s the right thing to do, even if he doesn’t love her anymore.
McDreamy is a very excellent brain surgeon, and he’s a very ethical doctor. In the second season, he stays in surgery after a bomb is discovered in a body cavity in the OR next door. In the fourth season, he tries to kill his own clinical trial because the death rate is too high for him to take. He rehires residents who were fired during a merger. He’s just that kind of wonderful.
Even if his personal life—with the love triangle of him and his wife and Meredith in the first few seasons—is a mess, McDreamy is unfailingly honest. OK- maybe it wasn’t so honest in the first season when he doesn’t tell Meredith about his wife, who he left in New York because she cheated on him. BUT: He tells his wife about the adulterous McSex, and admits to Meredith when he looks at other women. He admits it when he makes a bad judgment call. He stands up for Meredith to her peers and her boss.
He’s a good guy. Or, maybe I’m just deluded by all the Dreamy. I really haven’t figured that out yet.