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10 TV characters who redefined masculinity



Welcome to Cozy Week, where we’ll curl up by the glow of our screens to celebrate all that’s soft in entertainment. Pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa and sit by us as we coo over the cutest games, cry over the tenderest movie moments, and drift off to the most comforting shows. Because it can be a cold world out there, and we need something to keep us warm.

Embracing the soft and cozy can be difficult, especially if you’ve grown up in the prison otherwise known as cisheteronormative masculinity. For too long, society dictated stark gender roles — for men as well as women, and leaving little to no space for anyone else. But society is changing, and so too is TV, the true mirror of our lives, where new characters burst onto the scene with every show, daring us to reconsider what counts as masculine, feminine, or anything in between. They might not be the macho Everymen of the past, but these we like these 10 characters a lot better.

Here are 10 TV characters defying toxic masculinity just by being themselves.

Charles Boyle, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

It takes a special kind of man to make the phrase "mouth feel" not creepy. Or at least, less creepy.

It takes a special kind of man to make the phrase “mouth feel” not creepy. Or at least, less creepy.

Image: John P. Fleenor/NBC

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s first season has some tells about the 2013 of it all, particularly with characterizations of Jake and Charles — two men with good hearts who had some less-than-desirable traits at the time. Jake was always meant to be an evolving man-child, but it Boyle could have been a real wild card himself. 

In Season 1, Boyle was still eccentric and uniquely inappropriate (it takes some skills to make coworkers uncomfortable when simply discussing one’s love of cheese), but also strong feelings for Rosa and a fixation on the decreasingly appealing rom-com trope of persuading or tricking her into liking him (which is not, in fact, a thing). The writers of the Nine-Nine either identified this as unhealthy or had always planned to pivot away from it, making the rare TV decision to move a character away from the love interest he establishes in the pilot. Years later, it’s jarring to even be reminded of the Charles-Rosa arc (Charles/Gina is much more memorable). No need to go Full Boyle on a coworker again.

Nathaniel Plimpton III, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Why should we root for someone male, straight, and white??

Why should we root for someone male, straight, and white??


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend excels superbly at deconstructing our first impressions of people, and tests what we’ve learned as an audience with the introduction of Nathaniel in Season 2. Rebecca’s new boss is a cis het white male born into wealth and power, unopposed to firing people he doesn’t know and commenting on inappropriate things like Rebecca’s physical appearance. But he’s not the first man to be pulled into Rebecca’s orbit and to challenge his own ingrained biases and actions after he meets her. By series’ end, he’s a changed man, unafraid of his feelings and, crucially, open to everyone else’s.

Patrick Brewer, Schitt’s Creek

Noah Reid and Daniel Levy redefining couple goals on 'Schitt's Creek.'

Noah Reid and Daniel Levy redefining couple goals on ‘Schitt’s Creek.’

Anyone on Schitt’s Creek would make for a superb character study, but Patrick gets a spot on this last for arriving halfway through the series and — no hyperbole — changing all of our lives. He reevaluates and accepts his sexuality after meeting and falling for David, and since then their journey together has been joyous to behold. Patrick has endless affection and patience for his melodramatic and high-maintenance husband (we mean those as compliments!), even turning potentially embarrassing scenarios like David wetting the bed into beautiful relationship lessons from which we could all learn. He is — say it with us — simply the best.

Rogelio de la Vega, Jane the Virgin

Rogelio is a crush, a bro, a dad, and more. He does it all!

Rogelio is a crush, a bro, a dad, and more. He does it all!

Image: Kevin Estrada/The CW

If there were a poster child for the new masculinity of TV in the 2010s and beyond, it would be Jane the Virgin’s international telenovela superstar Rogelio De La Vega (he’d be pretty upset if it weren’t). From the very first episode, Rogelio has done nothing but deconstruct toxic and traditional masculinity with his signature charisma and confidence. He scoffs in the face of being an absentee father when he learns about Jane from her mother. He loves lilac and self-grooming, he’s vain but not cocky, and not once throughout the five-season series does any character stoop to link any of this to his sexuality (if they did, he’d have many a reference). We’ll always be proud to be Brogelios. 

Rahim, Sex Education

Mashable's official position on 'Sex Education' Season 2: Team Rahim!

Mashable’s official position on ‘Sex Education’ Season 2: Team Rahim!

The young men of Netflix’s Sex Education offer excellent examples of how Gen Z is already redefining masculinity, as well as the trappings of previous generations evidenced by characters like Adam. But Season 2 introduced “the hottest man I’ve ever seen” (in Eric’s words). Rahim is proud and confident in his sexuality, a feat aided at least in part by straight-passing appearance, but what’s more remarkable than anything is his emotional maturity. He plays no games as he pursues Eric, maintaining open communication about his feelings, values, and areas of potential conflict with Eric (none of which change Rahim’s mind about the relationship).  

Speckle, Tuca & Bertie

We stan a kind and respectful bird!

We stan a kind and respectful bird!

Once again for the people in the back: Women aren’t the only ones with emotional boundaries! Perfect man/bird Speckle spends a great deal of Tuca & Bertie supporting his girlfriend through a lot of change. He motivates Bertie to go after her professional goals, understands when she’s afraid of taking the next step in their relationship, and makes endless room for her other commitments (namely, her best friend Tuca.) But when Bertie ghosts Speckle at an important crossroads, he puts his foot down. He’s gentle and kind while making it clear her treatment of him is unacceptable. And honestly, that’s hot. –Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

Podrick Payne, Game of Thrones

Podrick Payne said: Respect female knights!!!

Podrick Payne said: Respect female knights!!!

In a show so full of awful people (irrespective of gender), Podrick Payne is a true light (sword?) in the darkness. As a squire, he serves both Tyrion and Brienne, two people incessantly maligned by Westerosi society but for whom he has nothing but loyalty and respect. That kindness isn’t motivated by a paycheck, either; let us never forget that the virginal Pod went to bed with no less than three women 

Richard Hunter, The Bold Type

Richard and Sutton have one of their classic elevator meetings in 'The Bold Type' Season 1.

Richard and Sutton have one of their classic elevator meetings in ‘The Bold Type’ Season 1.

Image: phillippe bosse / Freeform

Reality on The Bold Type is by most standards insane, but the most welcome miracle is the characterization and arc of one Richard Hunter. We meet Richard in the pilot, when we immediately learn that he’s having an affair with Sutton, a relationship complicated by the Richard’s position as a board member at the parent company of the magazine where Sutton interns. That’s a big ol’ gap in power dynamics which could get very harmful very fast, but The Bold Type loves to look at every possibility with rose (that’s pronounced rosé) colored glasses. Richard and Sutton overcome every obstacle in their way: their jobs, their friends, their emotional baggage, even some last minute hurdles in Season 4 that we won’t spoil just yet. A relationship that could have tanked from episode 1 became the show’s OTP, and we love it.

Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place

Look at this sexy, anxious nerd!

Look at this sexy, anxious nerd!

When we first met Chidi in The Good Place, he’s already an adorable nerd, an integral part of Eleanor’s afterlife because of his knowledge and compassion. But as we get to know Chidi’s anxieties and neuroses, we only like him more for opening up and facing his problems. He might take forever to make a decision, but Chidi Anagonye is not one to give up on a challenge, even when the challenge is himself.

And yes also that time he took off his shirt. YOU brought it up.

Dyn Jarren, The Mandalorian

From the start of episode 2 of The Mandalorian, we realize this is not the space cowboy adventure we were promised — at least not only that. This is the story of one mando becoming a father, a role he takes on almost instantly upon finding The Child. Most rootless assassins would not adopt a bebé lest it sully their brand, but Mando said no. Caregiving is now the way.

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