Curbing our obsession with TV’s most powerful males
There have been many altercations that I’ve experienced where I’m left walking away wishing that I said something a lot smoother and conniving. For some reason, there was a strange desire in me to use words to deliver the utmost sense of power upon my combatant.
Instead, I usually grunt, throw my hands in the air and shuffle away — arguably the better outcome in hindsight. I’m also usually not wearing a suit or looking super suave either.
With the emergence of shows — and their popularity — such as House of Cards and Suits, as well as the already extremely popular Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men and Dexter, there seems to be a strong trend in television shows nowadays that champion the antihero. These antiheroes have complex personalities, troublesome upbringings and are usually cutthroat in their demeanor, with many not initially willing to oppose these characters.
Admittedly, I loved every moment of Breaking Bad, but couldn’t help but hate Walter White as the show progressed — maybe that was the point, as he did, in fact, “break bad.” However, I can’t see many people viewing the same of Harvey Spector of Suits or Frank Underwood of House of Cards. Instead, and this is just my opinion, many may view these figures as the quintessential male — and that’s problematic.
Wear the slickest suit. Get all the women. And subtlety insult all your foes and make them feel weak or stupid. All traits that no human should have, yet we’re drawn to watching these characters unravel on screen.
This trend of troubled, yet successful men has made its way to film as well, with release of The Wolf of Wall Street in December, for example. Regardless of what you think the end message was, the film inadvertently glorified debauchery and the complete disregard for others. These male characters in these shows and films have one focus: power.
I know a lot of young adult men — and women — enjoy these shows on a regular basis. There has been a strong emphasis on fashion as well as the idea of “corporate culture.”
Granted, I’ve never worked in a corporate or political setting, but I think that the environments these shows — which are typically digested through binge watching — have are setting up an unrealistic notion of what it means to be in a position of authority, and what it also means to deal with others around you.
The figures that we sometimes champion nowadays aren’t necessarily just athletes or celebrities themselves, but these fictional characters that television, or Netflix, has been brought to the forefront.
Especially with how television has become a hotspot for up-and-coming, as well as veteran, actors and actresses, television shows are receiving a luxurious treatment from the public that they haven’t in a really long time.
I know it’s television, and it’s good television because of the complex nature of these characters. I also know it is good television because of the unrealism that these shows employ — good writing and dialogue comes from conflict, and it’s usually fictional.
And don’t get me wrong; I enjoy most of the shows mentioned above (aside from Suits and Dexter), but media literacy is still important even at ages where you’d think you wouldn’t be influenced by it anymore.
It always frightens me when I have friends who look up to these characters and how they are so “boss.” Most of the time I know they’re half joking, but I feel like there’s a real desire for many people to become the alpha-male in a more corporate and “white collar” setting.
Again, I could be reading too much into it and am probably more cynical than I should be. However, it’s impossible to ignore what many of these characters stand for in these shows. These characters are not the idols of today’s society and we should never strive to ever be like them. Instead, we should dissect the characters and what they mean, and what we can learn from that.
Back to my Breaking Bad example (without giving away too much), the series ends with some form of closure and a true lesson for the viewers — all actions, big or small, have consequences. I’m not saying every show should have that message, but having some sort of human element to these characters, including the ability to fail, can make some of these series a lot more tolerable.