What Aragorn can teach us about masculinity
A beloved character of most who have watched The Lord of The Rings, who may also hold great insight into how we can develop our masculinity more fully.
Masculinity remains a topic of immense contention. In many ways the views on masculinity have become polarised in conjunction with other more political and ideological matters, and this ultimately is to the detriment of us all.
The most pervasive point of disagreement is found around the topic of the concept of “toxic masculinity”. On one hand it is considered a valid critique of male behaviours, that aims to ameliorate the damage caused mostly by men, domestic violence, etc. On the other hand, it is criticised as an overall dismissal and disapproval of masculinity, and an attempt to eradicate masculinity.
Both perspectives are understandable, and the experience of masculinity can often feel as a choice between being an overly submissive weakling or a dominating brute. This is not only an extremely polarising understanding, but also completely unhelpful.
In a recent video on their YouTube channel, Cinema Therapy, Jonathan Decker, licensed therapist, and Alan Seawright, professional filmmaker, discuss the topic of toxic masculinity in an exceedingly constructive and helpful manner.
Firstly, they choose to describe it as “limiting masculinity” instead of “toxic”, and continue to outline what can be considered positive masculine traits, such as providing, protecting, being brave, being determined, being ambitious, and more negative traits, such as homophobia, misogyny, dominance through violence, and a struggle to be vulnerable.
This is a much more wholesome and helpful way to define the matter at hand, as the core positive traits of masculinity are unequivocally appreciated, and in the specification of the traits that are actually harmful.
What is inspiring about this way of looking at it, is that it opens up room for individuality to grow through and along masculinity, instead of being limited by it. Instead of feeling like the only choices of being lie in hyper-masculine brutality and weak passivity, we open the door for each person to define his own specific expression of masculinity, guided by the positive traits.
The Decker and Seawright center the video around the character Aragorn from the Lord of The Rings trilogy, as a prime example of healthy masculinity. The reason for choosing Aragorn, is that throughout the films he consistently shows absolute bravery, strength, and determination, while at the same time being supportive, empathetic, and encouraging of others. Critically he even vocalises his own insecurities about whether or not he is up for the tasks demanded of him.
This is a truly liberating idea for us all, as this view of masculinity doesn’t entail the suppression or disapproval of any part of our being, but instead promotes the full expression of ourselves. That we can be both courageous and strong as well as at the same time being able to express any emotion that is felt. We can call this “freeing masculinity”.
Yet, with this realisation comes a challenge in courage, as the unhelpful, polarised, definitions of masculinity have not occurred without reason. Both versions have fundamental fears they seek to avoid, that are in both cases related to how others will view them. In the weak and passive pole, the main fear is that asserting oneself and being bold will lead to confrontation and being shamed for being evil. On the more hyper masculine pole the fear is that expressing emotions of vulnerability will lead to ridicule and being seen as weak.
Fear is the foundational reason for the existence of both polarities, and it is exactly this fear we need to face in order to fully align with this new way of masculinity. We need to acknowledge the fears present within us and decide whether or not they are worth losing access to a fuller expression of our potential.
We may fear that a person close to us will laugh and ridicule us for being vulnerable, but in that case, we can choose to stand by ourselves regardless. The same goes for the opposite case if our newfound assertiveness causes conflict, as we can still choose to stand by ourselves. The point is that by caring more about our own integrity than we do about the reaction of others, we truly a more whole expression of ourselves and our masculinity.
As scary as it may seem to embody our masculinity more fully, we can alleviate some of our fear by understanding that anyone that would ridicule or shame us for our expression, is really just showing their own shame around whatever, we have expressed.
Even still we will likely feel fear, and that is okay, because bravery is meaningless unless fear is actually present. It all comes down to truly being ourselves and embracing freeing masculinity no matter what reaction people around us meet it with.
Despite all that has been said in criticism of masculinity, I believe it is more needed than ever, yet in a shape that is more wholesome than what we have allowed ourselves so far. We are only as bound by the current limitations of masculinity as we allow ourselves to be.
Take from traditional masculinity what truly serves you, let the rest fall away. Make it your own unique expression and live it fully.
The world needs it, perhaps more than ever.
Make sure to watch the video from Cinema Therapy, it’s great: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv_KAnY5XNQ&t=76s&ab_channel=AmitojGautamAmitojGautam