Not every hero has to fit the typical mold we’re so very used to in epic storytelling. It’s always either the manly man’s man who is the big, strong, authoritative handsome guy, like Thor and Captain Kirk. (This really doesn’t even have to be a man — look at fighters like Black Widow and Wonder Woman — but we’re going to focus this piece on men because it’s specifically about Newt Scamander from the Wizarding World’s Fantastic Beasts series.)
Or the protagonistic hero is frequently The Chosen One, who is “Called to the Quest” by nature of birthright or a unique ability, like Harry Potter himself, Luke Skywalker of Tatooine, Paul Atreides of Dune, Neo from the Matrix, or even pint-sized Frodo of the Shire.
Some men like Thor, Kirk, Hercules, and King Arthur fit both the strong fighting man and Chosen One categories. It’s a very well-worn set of tropes: these heroes fit the archetypes defined by Joseph Campbell’s Journey of the Hero.
The third most common kind of male hero is a leader by nature of being the smartest, most talented guy in any room, like Captain Picard, Dumbledore, Gandalf, or Dr. Strange.
There’s also a fourth common heroic category: the lovable rogue with a heart of gold. Mal from Firefly, Han Solo of Star Wars, and Starlord from the Marvel Universe nestle right in there. Iron Man may be more smartass than badass, but he fits the mold, along with being super smart like Dr. Strange (and to wit, in his words: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.)
I freely love these heroes, these ‘accepted’ stereotypes. I grew up adoring them and never thought much about it before.
So what about the humble, good-natured, perhaps shy man, exhibiting gentleness and compassion? His skill sets usually don’t include fighting; he isn’t of noble birth, and is actually not interested in the big events of the world except as they effect his personal goals: in Newt’s case, communing with and conserving the endangered magical creatures of the world first, and secondly, to find his girlfriend and help her (she is the one actually interested in fighting Grindelwald). I’m not sure he even believes in evil at all: he says he doesn’t choose sides, and twice ignores Dumbledore’s behest to take the safe house card in Paris.
I think an attempt was made in Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald to have Dumbledore retcon Newt into being a sort of Chosen One, in the mold of Frodo Baggins (“You’re a man with no lust for power, so you’re the only one who can do this…blah blah blah,” I was pleased to see Newt still wanted none of it).
This video below by Pop Culture Detective came highly recommended to me by several RunPee fans, most of them, happily, from men. And it’s AWESOME.
If you read the comments, it’s clear there’s room out there for exactly this kind of protagonist among the male gender. I applaud every bit of it. I’ve loved Newt Scamander as a new kind of protagonist as soon as I realized his social awkwardness likely stemmed from a bit of Asperger’s Syndrome: he approaches people (save his very, very few friends) in the same way one would a dangerous animal, in a submissive posture with almost no eye contact. And yet he comes alive most when he’s loving on the fantastic beasts in both the magical suitcase and his wonderful zoo-like apartment. Freddy Redmayne is astounding as Newt. The video below shows a few clips that can’t not make you go Awwwwwww.
I hope Newt isn’t marginalized as the series plows on. We have three more films of which he is the intended main character. But from his unusual nature, even JK Rowling worries he might be pushed aside for more typical male heroes to assume the center spot.
Do you believe we have room in the world of epic genre entertainment for a gentle, quiet, and unassuming male figure to remain in the center of political intrigue, wizardly power plays and world-dominating plots? Do you like Newt at all? Please use the comments section below.
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)