Sexualized Saturdays: Ward, Fitz, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Ideal of Masculinity (source)
Fitz isn’t the only subversive take on masculinity in the MCU, either. Think about it: almost all the male heroes have some sort of vulnerability, some moment of “weakness”, that goes against the stereotype of what it is to be a tough, strong man, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t heroes. Think about it:
- Tony Stark has a drinking problem and PTSD severe enough that it nearly wrecks his relationship with Pepper.
- Steve Rogers is chosen as Captain America for his compassion and intelligence.
- Phil Coulson is a dweeby little bureaucrat in a tailored gray suit.
- Thor loves his brother so dearly that he pleads with him to come home even after Loki invades Earth.
- Bruce Banner despises the violence in his heart that allows him to become the Hulk, and becomes a freelance healer to compensate.
- Sam Wilson is a mental health counselor whose military service was in the pararescue corps, motto: ”So others may live.”
- Nick Fury’s three chief lieutenants are two women (Natasha Romanoff, whom he treats almost as a daughter, and Maria Hill, whom he depends on to fake his death) and one man (Phil Coulson, whom he tasks with rebuilding SHIELD from the ground up).
Almost all of these characters are seen crying or close to tears (especially Cap, who is on the verge of tears during the final combat in CA:TWS), all fight in ways that don’t have buckets of blood thrown at the screen, and all value and respect the women they love and fight beside. The most notable exception is James Rhodes, an Air Force officer, but even he is shown taking care of Tony Stark, his best friend, more often than he’s shown firing a weapon.
I think this may be why the MCU is so popular among women: the men AREN’T the stereotypical strong, silent American hero. They bleed, they cry, they let their guards down, and they treat their friends, regardless of gender, color, race, or religion, as equals. This could not be more different from the blood-soaked ideals of masculinity that have dominated the screen over the last few decades (remember Rambo?), and it’s very, very good to see.