It’s a common occurrence to have an audience member have a crush on a character and the actor that portrays them. When Wonder Woman came out and I, along with many, many others had a crush on Chris Pine that grew experientially after seeing his portrayal of Steve Trevor. This made me wonder about my character crushes and I realized a connection:
My first big crush on a character was Jack Dawson from Titanic and the actor that beautifully played him was Leonardo DiCaprio. I was 9 years old seeing it three times in theaters, I got the movie for my birthday and I had posters of him and of that film all over my room.
Soon after, I saw Out of Sight (my parents let me see Rated R movies all the time and I still remember my dad just wanting to see anything but Titanic again). Jack Foley played by the suave George Clooney quickly became competition for Dawson/DiCaprio.
Then at 14 years old, an independent British film hit the world full force, Bend It Like Beckham and the coach, Joe played by the sweet but tough Jonathan Rhys-Meyers came into view. Fast forward to present day and Chris Pine is playing the dashing yet humble Steve Trevor. Do you see a pattern? Because I do.
These four characters share a lot of characteristics that I admire and that isn’t even touching on the physical attributes. The film industry is notoriously known for its lack of diversity. All of the actors in these films are Caucasian and handsome. Let’s put that aside and dig into what else the characters have in common: they support and encourage the women they love.
There are several scenes that stand out to me. In Titanic, Jack sneaks Rose away from her family to the gym and begs her through pointing out her flaws as well as her attributes, to stay strong and leave her fiancé. “Sooner or later, that fire that I love about you, Rose, that fire is going to burn out.” This isn’t an entirely selfless declaration, he wants her to be with him but first he wants her to be free from the shackles she is put in. I remember seeing this in 3D when the film was released in 2012 for the centenary of the Titanic. I am no longer a little kid, I am an adult, I have been on dates, I have seen marriages and divorces, but after watching this scene on the big screen, I found myself falling in love all over again with Jack Dawson. Here is the unforgettable clip:
In Out of Sight, Jack Foley is a felon and Karen Sisco is a US Marshall looking for him. When they meet up, they decide to put pause on the cat and mouse chase and for one night, they pretend to be just strangers who find each other attractive and spend the night together. Afterwards, Karen feels regret that she has been used by the cunning felon and confronts him. He sees that she is upset, that she is unsure of their situation and how he views her and he responds in the most honest way:
“I know a guy…walks into a bank with a bottle, tells everybody it’s nitroglycerin. He scores some cash off of the teller. On his way out, he drops the bottle. It cracks on the floor. He slips in it. He smacks up his head. They get him. The nitroglycerin was canola oil. I know more fucked-up bank robbers than ones that know what they’re doing. I doubt one in ten could tell you where the dye pack is. Most bank robbers are fucking morons. For you to go to bed with one for kinky thrills, like you were saying, makes you as dumb as they are. Now, you are not dumb. Why would you think that? Why would you think that I would think that?”
That last line always got me. All the insecurities wash away and you see that he really cares for her and thinks highly of her. This one night was not meaningless, it wasn’t a con. It meant something to him, just as much if not more than for her and he doesn’t think any less of her.
Joe in Bend it Like Beckham continuously pushes Jess to do her best, to share with her family and friends her talent, passion and ambition. He also does his best to respect her culture, even winning over her family in the end. I come from a big family and to see a man spend time with this big, Indian family even though she is not there meant that he genuinely likes to be there with her family and would do anything to make her happy.
Then there is Steve Trevor, from his respecting Diana’s wishes to thinking of others, it was two hours of a pretty perfect guy. For more, this post explains it pretty much.
All of these men want the best for the women they love.
Another reason why I think I am drawn to these four characters so much is that the women they love are so strong with imperfections. All of the women, Rose, Karen, Jess, Diana are stubborn, struggling between duty and wanting more, their male counterparts do not use their weaknesses against them but try and show them how to strengthen those weaknesses for their own good.
These are just four examples of male leads who are a girl’s dream (they for sure are for me). They are well developed, played beautifully by talented actors and the best part? Their female leads are just the same. I hope to see more of these kinds of love stories, where there is mutual respect and encouragement. For now, I will always have a crush on Leo’s Jack, George’s Jack, Jonathan’s Joe, and Chris’ Steve as well as striving to be like Rose, Karen, Jess and Diana: strong, independent and loved women.