I possess begrudging adoration for the dapper Aussie; a peculiar reality for me. It’s been a long-standing policy of mine not to entertain opinions – good or bad – about people I’ve never met. As a heterosexual male, I am also not prone to crushing out on dudes. That said, a guy has to respect when his eyes behold a tall, well-built, talented, and maddeningly handsome man whose persona smacks of authenticity, and betrays little evidence that the charm gushing out of him in droves is an affectation.
It’s obvious Jackman did not have a Himalayan Mountain range of neuroses barring his ascent to success, like me. All factors suggest I should hate Hugh Jackman’s guts for being so lean and well-chiseled; for having the fortitude to win him a life infinitely more charmed, financially secure, and multi-faceted than mine.
But I’m no Hugh hater. Au contraire, I loves me my Hugh Jackman.
As a male entertainer in a highly sexist industry, he has masterfully projected both ends of the masculine-feminine spectrum in his choices as a performer. At the same time he’s maintained his status as a hunky male sex symbol without propagating the macho clichés that poison the minds of young boys with falsehoods about what it is to be a man.
When I see Hugh Jackman on a talk show or awards-show I can feel myself rooting for him. I don’t want him to come off like a navel-gazing egotist like so many celebrities can’t help but do. I am brimming with glee as he unleashes any number of his talents to charm the pants off whomever is lucky enough to be in his company. I desperately want them to swoon, just like me.
The torrents of envy and ill-will that erupt out of my ego when George Clooney or Matt Damon flash their powdered-up dimples, proselytizing left-wing politics on talk shows before retiring to their opulent lives is nowhere to be found when I spy Hugh Jackman jabbering on about cooking on The View or Singing in the Rain at the Oscars. It’s not his pecs or broad shoulders – which I grudgingly admit are pretty special – but the female energy he radiates that is attractive to others.
Hugh has a lot going for him. First of all, he’s white; a stroke of genetic good fortune to spare him a lifetime of racially-tinged indignities throwing a wet blanket over his natural gifts. He’s genuinely charming, has a toothy smile, non-patchy facial growth, and a full head of thick wavy hair. He has a pince-nez, genuine swagger, and an income to free him from financial worries.
It’s hard to like a guy with such a panoply of God-given attributes to recommend him; to look at any of the pictures I’ve plastered all over this blog and not feel woefully insignificant by comparison. His fame, notoriety and all-around affability would be far more tolerable if he were chubby and homely.
And then there is me. I was born a black man in a white family. I grew up in a bland prairie town where, as a child, everybody insisted I looked just like whatever black celebrity was on their mind at the time. When it was Denzel Washington it was fine. When it was Fat Albert, it wasn’t.
There are days where I literally ruminate for twenty minutes over what cereal I should have for breakfast. I want the Frosted Flakes but am well aware I should be eating a little more fibre. I have a receding hair-line, a naturally slow metabolism, and zits that appear for no reason at all. I am barely treading water financially, am divorced, earn a decidedly middle-class salary, and I drive a Hyundai.
I am an emotional eater prone to vicious mood-swings that undermine my heroic efforts to stay lean and looking good. My self-loathing inspired junk food binges have left me with a muffin-top over my lower two abs that will never recede. In fact, after tapping out this paragraph I will run to the kitchen for a bag of chocolate cookies to dip in my bucket of tears.
I’m almost one hundred per cent certain Hugh has none of these problems.
Other than the fact we both have a penis, an Adam’s apple, and widespread bodily hair, it’s obvious we have nothing in common. Check that; given Hugh’s unmitigated success, it’s obvious we both really, really like Hugh. His self-esteem and I should probably become BFFs.
Despite all of his genetic, physical, ethnic, emotional, and psychological advantages I don’t resent Hugh; not enough, at least. He’s a consummate gentleman. His success did not arise out of the same pile of self-aggrandizing excrement that blossoms most male ambition in our culture. So far, and I am crossing my fingers this doesn’t change, he hasn’t used his success as a pretense to justify chronic womanizing.
The more Hugh shimmies on stage singing show tunes made famous by Liza Minelli the less self-conscious I become about being hapless with hand tools, not caring about sports, or not having the budget to cover up my execrable personality with a fancy suit. I am glad to be absolved of the need to shoot deer and other helpless, cute and furry wild creatures to hang their sad, dead busts over the mantle in my man-cave; to feel I must always find ways to signal the stature of my balls without dropping my pants. Thanks to Hugh, I don’t need to do any of that stuff. I don’t have to venerate my manhood by subjugating everyone and everything in my existence to whatever it is my ego desires in the moment.
Hugh Jackman is genuine and unrestrained in refreshing contrast to most other heterosexual male sex-symbols. It’s disarming for both sexes, and endears him to his audiences. Watch Hugh Jackman’s opening of the 2009 Oscars and try to dislike him. It was splendid in its simplicity, allowing the talent and spirit inside the performer to glimmer. He nailed the number without degenerating into glibness and cliche. There were no traces of the stiffness, cheek, or embarrassment that most male egos would unleash to sabotage the performance and excoriate the man for presuming to do “girly” things like singing, dancing, and self-deprecating humour.
The more a really masculine-looking man like Hugh Jackman casts off his male-cretin persona the more others will feel they can do the same. Just like that, the emotional breadth of man widens. A man becomes more than a wife-beating, knuckle-dragging, money-grubbing, ball-grabbing ape; more than a pouting cacaphony of unresolved emotions posing as a grown adult. Instead, a man learns to be comfortable with his vulnerability, to say ‘I don’t know’ without shame, to cry without embarrassment. A man learns to own and exude his sensitivity as a human being; to express feelings other than hostility, rage, and resentment for not getting what he’s conditioned to believe he’s entitled to.
Go figure: an intelligent, debonair ‘man’s man’ who is neither a douche-bag nor a flake. ‘Impossible,’ you say? Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce Hugh Jackman. He is everything the Marlboro man, Dirty Harry, every Tom Cruise movie-character in the 80’s, Gordon Gecko and other idealized males in the North American pscyhe are not. Hugh Jackman is not the living incarnation of a chastened penis in constant search of validation.
It’s no surprise Jackman is Australian. He didn’t have the posturing-male nonsense shoved down his throat as a boy, so he’s oblivious to the macho stereotypes he mocks by his essence. He is clearly a talented man, but he’s no artistic genius. What is appealing is the fact he’s just doing something really, really unique in projecting himself as a man, which is why people respond so positively to it.
Jackman’s feat goes a long way to driving a wooden stake into the heart of the domineering alpha-male persona to which our culture teaches boys to aspire; that so many women have been conditioned to prefer in a prospective mate. Jackman’s popularity raises the hope that sensitive, expressive, emotionally robust, and artistic are attributes that will someday rival ambitious, wealthy, charming, and aggressive as attributes men are encouraged to cultivate and women are inclined to seek out. I love Hugh for the fact his choices as an artist advance our idea of what it is to be male beyond the evolutionary rut it’s obviously still stuck in; for being living proof men no longer need to act like baboons to be successful winners in life.
Hugh Jackman’s artsy-Adonis image is the foil to the concept of man as primordial conqueror, an ideal that has created scores of tragic male figures whose lives were wasted desecrating history with countless atrocities. It is refreshing and even subversive the way he so effortlessly refrains from suppressing his feminine side in such mass-market venues. It’s one that exists in every man, but is the cause of so much unresolved conflict in our minds; one that too often manifests itself in destructive fashion.
Much of the pathos at the heart of the brutality men have exclusively been responsible for – bellicosity, zealotry, misogyny, genocide, xenophobia – stems from the suppression of such a fundamental essence of our being. It’s a denial that fuels a callous disrespect for the sanctity of life – human, animal, and ecological. The more men embrace their feminine spirit the way Hugh Jackman has, the more well-balanced and less prone to senseless acts of violence men will be.
If only men could find a way to tap into their feminine side to settle their differences. Imagine two men jockeying for the affections of a woman, or in a stalemate over who gets the last buffalo wing, or trying to claim a useless tract of desert as their holy land. As the intensity of the dispute reaches a climax, instead of escalating to lethal violence what if the custom was to break out into “Anything you can do I can do better” and let the chips fall where they may? Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris did just that at the 2011 Tony Awards and it was decisive in dousing their little quibble.
If men could dance away their disagreements there’d be no need for guns, scud missiles, IEDs, and suicide bombs to get innocent folks killed. If men could tap-dance to the beat of their inner angst there’d be no more acid tossed at girls for seeking an education, no more children killed in indiscriminate gunplay, no more teenaged boys plucked from school and handed AK-47s to deliver their fathers’ mortal enemies to their deaths. The human race is spared the affliction of male-inspired misery and everybody wins because they’re alive and entertained.
Hugh Jackman’s female effervescence in the face of the temptation to be a womanizer undermines the idea that a man’s barrel chest and broad shoulders are crowbars to pry a woman’s panties from her hips. His comportment demonstrates that the penis isn’t a brick-bat to knock the shit out of would-be adversaries or an instrument to hoodwink women into sexual submission. For some men, a penis is just a crippling fact of nature, one that need not command its owner to gratify its every whim. It doesn’t have to penetrate and colonize every object its hard-on desires.
It is essential for men to keep the whimsical aims of our insatiable peckers contained safely in the dungeons of our inner-life without giving it the keys to the castle gates. Without denying its energy and spirit, we must learn to take it for healthy jaunts in the community, keeping it close at hand with an emotionally intelligent leash. The approach is more harmonious with modern Civilization than the alternative: all the mindless, pathological sabre-rattling that has terrorized the earth for millennia. Unfortunately, too many men remain lax keeping their plundering dragon walking in step, and the result is a sad, heart-hardening legacy in the spirits of humanity.
But hope is not lost. Don’t believe me? Look at Hugh kicking like a Rockette. I rest my case. We’re not all douchebags beyond redemption. There are some men who genuinely desire to energize the feminine spirit in their hearts for its life-affirming qualities. Whether we men like it or not, we cannot reach our full potential as human beings without embracing the feminine, either by cultivating it in ourselves or opening our hearts to it in healthy, close, mutually respectful relationships with women.
Hugh Jackman is the object of my bro-mantic fantasies because he’s channeled his energies into expressing the female as a prominent feature of his male persona; in stark contrast to the denial of this in the idealized hyper-masculine idea prevalent in our culture. Thanks to you Hugh Jackman, for projecting the kind of man I actually want to emulate; one who is real and whole. I am right behind you as you champion the cause – figuratively speaking, of course.
Now, about that buffed chest, over-sized pipes, and ripped body. I think we need to talk about your little “awesome body” problem over some cookies and ice cream.