I must confess: I have a serious man-crush on Hugh Jackman. I adore the dapper Aussie, which is a strange paradox for a neurotic, heterosexual man such as I am to contend with.
My neurosis sometimes makes me self-defensively misanthropic. There are few things I genuinely adore because, let’s face it, such sentiments inevitably lead to disappointment. Aside from Hugh, my list of adorable things is decidedly short: my children, puppies, and warm, intelligent, authentic women. I tend towards ambivalence about other people’s children, cats, and dudes – especially Hollywood celebrities. Given such pathologies, my affections for Hugh are a little … confounding.
As a black man subjected to a lifetime of racist micro-aggressions, I resist the urge to harbour negative generalizations about wide swathes of people. That said, it’s been my experience the default behaviour of Australian white guys, particularly those who run in packs, tends towards the obnoxious. While travelling in Asia I often hear their primal screaming at local natives for not speaking English. I frequently witness them stumbling and shouting at the wee hours after a solid night of binge-drinking; the only mode of alcohol consumption these Aussie louts seem capable of. On paper, Hugh’s passport and penis are two big knocks against his inclusion on my list of adorables.
Despite all that, I cannot help but be smitten when my eyes behold the tall, well-built, talented, and maddeningly handsome Aussie who also possesses humility, grace, and authenticity in his conduct and demeanour. There is very little evidence the charm gushing out of Hugh in droves is an affectation. I imagine it’s no easy feat in an industry dominated by people as real and as deep as a wading pool at a Madam Tussaud’s museum.
I should hate Hugh Jackman’s guts; figuratively because he embodies all the desired traits I lack, and literally because, unlike my jiggly, flab-embellished guts, his are incredibly lean and utterly well-defined. The only thing jiggling on Hugh’s belly is the clump of Veuve Cliquot jello that landed there while Hugh was fitfully enjoying the fruits of his labour.
As it happens, I am no Hugh Hater, despite the countless attributes he possesses – which Western societies arbitrarily reward – that clamour for a guy like me to loathe in another man. Frankly, the roster of subjects for my envious wrath is long enough. Thanks to social media shoving their perfection in my face day in and day out, it is becoming more and more trying to keep the bile hurling at the sight of insufferably handsome, charming blokes like Brad Pitt, Chris Hemsworth, and Michael Ealy. I love-hate those guys, for sure. They suck balls.
Hugh, on the other hand, does not suck balls. He is a unique figure in an industry over-run with one-dimensional, cardboard cut-out ball-suckers.
As a male entertainer in a highly sexist industry, Hugh Jackman masterfully taps into aspects of the masculine and feminine energies within himself, which all human beings possess. The completeness of his portrayals bestows his characters with the kind of well-rounded, multifaceted humanity that makes them inherently relatable. I believe it explains how he has managed to maintain the delicate balance of being a hunky, male sex symbol without propagating the macho clichés about what it means to be a successful, high-achieving man.
Hugh has a lot going for him. First of all, he’s white. That in itself is a stroke of genetic good fortune; one that spared him a lifetime of racial indignities that can dampen the dreams and aspirations in a young, impressionable mind. He’s authentic and 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 is hard to like a guy with such a panoply of God-given attributes to recommend him; to look at any of the pictures attached to this blog post and not feel woefully insignificant by comparison. His fame, notoriety and all-around affability would be far more tolerable were he chubby and homely.
I, on the other hand, was born a black man in a white family, and grew up in a bland prairie town where everyone was white. As a child, my peers insisted I looked like whatever black celebrity was on their mind at the time. When it was Denzel Washington it was a fine compliment, racially-tinged as it was (given the only feature of mine that remotely resembles Washington is my eyebrows). When it was Fat Albert or Gary Coleman, it was humiliating and insulting.
There are days where I 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 make me pay dearly for loving chocolate as much as I do. By no means am I poor, but I lack the proceeds to make my life anywhere near as fabulous as it could be; like Hugh’s life.
I am an emotional eater prone to vicious mood-swings that undermine my heroic efforts to stay lean and looking good. My neurosis-inspired junk food binges make it impossible to permanently remove what I call the “Ring of Fire” from my body; the layer of whale blubber that encircles my hips and makes me cringe and cuss every time I put on a form fitting t-shirt. 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, we have nothing in common. Check that; given Hugh’s unmitigated success, it is plainly obvious Hugh and I both love Hugh to death. Even his self-esteem, has more going for it than the real me.
Despite all the genetic, physical, ethnic, emotional, and psychological advantages Hugh enjoys, it fails to stir resentment in me. 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 does not change, he has not used his success and power as a sex symbol as a pretense to justify chronic sexual misconduct and 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 lacking the budget to divert attention away from my pedantic, introverted personality with a fancy suit or other accessories. I am relieved of the need to shoot helpless, cute and furry wild creatures to hang over the mantle in my man-cave. I am excused of the obligation to signal the stature of my balls with oversized or fast automobiles; with guns, loud, obnoxious toys to announce my presence, or other culturally-normalized substitutes for male primal-screaming. I don’t need to venerate my manhood by subjugating everyone in my existence to the whimsy of my testosterone-inflamed ego.
When hyper masculine men like Hugh Jackman shun the obligatory male-cretin persona it signals men and young, impressionable boys how the toxic bloviating of alpha-males is not absolutely necessary for success. His stature helps to widen our perceptions of the emotional breadth of man. 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.
Relieved of the obligation to engage in the exhausting, pointless posturing of traditional males, a man learns to spend his time and energy learning to be comfortable with emotional vulnerability; to say ‘I don’t know’ without shame; to cry without embarrassment; to simply be angry without having to hit someone or break something in return. A man is free to exude sensitivity as a human being; to express feelings other than hostility, rage, and resentment for failing to acquire, by hook or crook, whatever he has been conditioned by society to believe he is entitled.
Go figure: an intelligent, debonair ‘Man’s man’ who is neither a douche-bag nor a flake. Impossible, you say? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Mr. Hugh Jackman.
Jackman is everything the Marlboro man, Dirty Harry, every Tom Cruise movie-character in the 80’s, Gordon Gecko, and other idealized, emotionally-stunted males in the North American psyche are not. Hugh Jackman is not the living incarnation of a chastened penis in constant search of validation, despite so many cultural messages telling him his celebrity status entitles him to behave as such. It should come as no surprise that Jackman is Australian. He did not have the American hyper-aggressive, toxic male ideal shoved down his throat as a boy. Thankfully for humanity, he is oblivious to the toxic stereotypes he mocks by his male identity-undermining essence.
Jackman is, simply put, a talented, self-confident, authentic man who does not wield his notoriety and presence like King Kong or some cartoon-like, bathetic character from a WWE Wrestling production. At the same time, he is no artistic genius. His appeal derives from a willingness to tap into the depths of his humanity to deliver a well-rounded, authentic performance. He lets go into his roles in a manner that is just right in the circumstances. That humane approach fills in whatever gaps in natural ability he might bring to a part.
In the olden days, Jackman’s persona might have been described as befitting a man of genuine candour. Nowadays the bar for public behaviour is set extremely low; there is increasing tolerance for brazen, boorish, crass, and insufferable, obnoxious behaviour from men and women alike.
In this context it is difficult to discern just how sui generis, how utterly unique Jackman’s persona is. We can thank the infestation of reality television shows for dulling our attentiveness to Hugh’s unique gifts. His comportment is the absolute foil to all the garishness that exists in spades thanks to the crass, artless, fraudulent performativity-porn that has turned modern, mainstream network television into an intellectual garbage dump. Thank goodness for HBO, Netflix, Prime and other non-cable production companies that have returned the medium of series television to something resembling its original glory.
Jackman drives a wooden stake into the heart of the domineering alpha-male persona our culture teaches boys to mimic. His popularity raises the hope sensitive, expressive, emotionally robust, and artistic are attributes that will eventually rival ambitious, wealthy, charming, and aggressive as attributes men are encouraged to cultivate. 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 obviously still remains; for embodying the truth of how men need not behave like wild 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. The feminine exists in every man; its presence is the cause of so much unresolved, internal conflict among young males in societies intent on conditioning the toxic male ideal. Too often, failure to resolve this conflict manifests in destructive, homicidal fashion. It is a tragic collective psychic phenomenon that causes legions of innocent victims, particularly in America where males in the grip of toxic male psychosis have easy access to lethal means and choose to resolve their conflict by taking others down with them.
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: that of the female energy. The denial 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 men could dance away their disagreements, as Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris did at the 2011 Tony Awards there would 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 would be no more acid tossed at girls for seeking an education, no more children killed by angry shooters, 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 are alive – and entertained.
Hugh Jackman’s female effervescence in the face of the temptation to be a womanizer refutes the notion a man’s barrel chest and broad shoulders are useful tools in designs to pry a woman’s panties from her hips. His comportment proves decisively the penis is, in fact, not a brick-bat erected by nature to help men knock the shit out of would-be adversaries, nor is it a magic wand with powers to bamboozle women into unwanted sexual trysts. For some men, a penis is simply a crippling fact of nature, one that need not command its owner to gratify its every whim. The penis does not have to penetrate and colonize any object its hard-on desires. Not all of its needs and desires need be satiated. Ideally, this is why all humans are possessed of advanced regions of the brain – they are fashioned to override the primal drives from the parts of our bodies we possessed as fish, reptiles, and neanderthals.
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 in ensuring their plundering dragon walks in step with humanity. 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.
Now, about that buffed chest, over-sized pipes, and ripped body. I think we need to have a little talk about your “awesome body” problem over some cookies and ice cream.