On seeing Walt Longmire
A while back, I wrote a blog post called On seeing ‘On Seeing Lena Dunham Naked’. The post was about female self-image, particularly body image. As a guy, I can’t really understand that, but I should know about it so my female characters seem more realistic. After all, why in the name of God would you wear heels if you didn’t have to?
There are two sides to every fence, though. And if women can sometimes tend to have body image issues, then men can have issues bigger than not wanting to stop and look at a map when they get lost.
Gil Hodges has always been somewhat of a model of what a man should be in my eyes. He was quiet, stoic, almost, and he projected a quiet confidence that helped a bunch of men transform a horribly pitiful baseball team with a wretched history into the 1969 Mets. Of course, the only things I know about Hodges, who died before I turned ten, was what I read in baseball books.
A more contemporary model is Walt Longmire, of Craig Johnson’s series of novels–now a weekly television show on A&E. As played by Robert Taylor, Longmire is a man of very few words. He’s a rugged man who does what needs to be done with a minimal amount of fuss. He looks and acts the way a rugged man should look and act–in spite of the baggage he carries internally (most of it currently unrevealed). He even has a full head of hair, the bastard. And he gets the job done.
He is, in the eyes of some, the personification of what it is to be a man. And therein lies the problem.
According to the stereotype, men are more competitive while women are more collaborative. If that’s the case, then a man might be inclined to compare himself against an idealized stereotype and come up wanting. In a sense, Walt Longmire is Barbie. So maybe a man isn’t going to look at his sagging body parts and curse his weakness in the face of chocolate. But maybe he will look at his house and bank account, and curse his attempts to provide a good enough living for his family in contrast to the guy who just drove his family to the beach with a couple wave runners.
Maybe he’ll look at the middle-aged woman sitting across the table at a party with her arm over her husband’s shoulder and note that he and his wife haven’t done that since they were newlyweds. Maybe he’ll remember the tough uncle whose skin seemed like worn leather and then remember how he felt like less than a man in comparison.
If you’re writing a part that’s a man, the same issues can arise as with a woman character. Sometimes they just manifest themselves differently.