The Princess is Saved, but what about the Prince?
Images courtesy of indiewire, alternative press and vulture.com
The task is simple: finish the essay due tomorrow. Fingers charging through pages looking for the perfect quotes, the number of opened PDF files on the computer screen creates a chaotic image of stress. A shivering cold sweat appears on your back, and your right leg desperately jumps under the wooden library desk. One playlist, which has been playing for the past two hours (and equals around 250 words) makes you angry, but you cannot change it – that would make you stay on your phone and browse social media. “This is so stressful,” you scream internally, and before looking for a different degree or a full-time job, you stare at the blank page and let minutes pass in silence.
You start thinking about the heroic prince who saves the princess. With courage, wit, and skill, he slays a [choose any number from two to a million]-headed dragon, by which he saves the city and not only ‘obtains’ the princess, but also half a kingdom, fame, wealth, and marriage which lasts to the end of their lives. If he had killed a dragon, maybe you could finish this essay? It is getting dark, and with every minute passed, the internal scream gets louder and louder until you are unable to think clearly. Well, certainly not about the words on the screen.
Let us be honest here, which David would fight Goliath? The prince is a brute, running head-first into the fight, leaving any rational thinking behind. We want him to be like that. We want to see a brave knight; a crying Terminator or a Rocky Balboa not going to the gym because he “felt sore” are useless for us. Action movie characters can motivate, us, posters of Rambos, Mason Storms, and Dom Torretos showing brave, muscular individuals willing to sacrifice everything to achieve their goal. They are, however, different to us: they are made up just as their missions.
But men do still hear statements like “man up”, “show that you’re a man”, or “you can’t feel sad in weather like this”. No Pain No Gain, escaping the comfort zone, and enduring hardships do not work on everyone when they are facing an obstacle they cannot step over. The prince can feel scared of the beast. He needs preparation, or maybe he does not want to go on the mission alone. If he could get his friends, a sorcerer, paladin and an archer could make the fight easier and faster. Cooperation and asking for help are not signs of weakness. The era of lone warriors is over; the current trend of team-based superhero movies shows that. People can work together to achieve something greater than what they would do alone.
Movie screens and book pages are not only filled with strong, brave men. There are the Clays of 13 Reasons Why, the Ben Starlings of Paper Towns, the Peetas of Hunger Games. Those whose doings are shaped by others to such an extent that they feel almost useless in the story. In the princess-saves-prince scenario, the prince would see the dragon, cry, and wait for the princess to kill it. He would then continue to save her while falling from the tower stairs. They show their weak and human side, but are they better? Not really, if being a cry-baby is their only characteristic.
Both of the types are extreme in nature. The first group, despite being far-fetched and too manly, can provide motivation and show how things could be handled. The second category does not present that, as weakness is portrayed as their main (and sometimes only) personality trait. The aim of this article is not to find the best male character in the arts; there are far more important numbers than box-office sales and IMDB ratings. Just as there is a debate about the position of female characters in art, their roles and the stereotypical way they are depicted, the discussion should be pushed even further. The way both genders are portrayed on our screens becomes how they are perceived. A ban or censorship is not the answer, as action movies are still widely liked, even by me; it is an open-ended question rather than a call to arms, but there are deliberate consequences to our stance.
Three out of four suicides are done by men. There were 6,859 suicides in the last year, while the number has increased by more than 10% from the year before. Seeing into their heads is impossible, just as knowing their situation. The percentage in the age-group of University students is increasing as well, but fortunately, the Universities are willing to help. Contacting the University Wellbeing Centre or talking to professors and academic advisors can relieve the stress and make the sky seem at least a little clearer and the beast much smaller than it was before. The ‘Terminator’ mentality can be helpful for some, but it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
Men are neither superheroes nor cowards. They are people, they show their strengths but also their weaknesses, which if not balanced, could escalate into horrible acts. The beast can be too big for one person, the prince could need help, and we should be the ones to step up. Sometimes, the prince does not want us to slay the monster for him; talkING about his journey or taking a brief look at his armour can be enough. There is no cowardice in taking more time to prepare or contacting someone wiser. Even small things like that can help cross the bridge to glory and fame. If you feel unsure about the essay, a message to a friend can make you feel better. Plus, there is a high chance that your mate is going through the same thing as you.