Male Characters in Our Favorite Shows
What is it that attracts us to a television series? Sometimes it could be the juicy storyline but many times it is the presence of a strong male character that brings together audiences that religiously follow a particular series. Furthermore, these characters are attractive and have these deep complexities that make them appealing characters. Some would call them “bad boys” and they do not always play by the rules. Don Draper from Mad Men, Vince Chase in Entourage, Walter White in Breaking Bad, and Hank Moody from Californication are examples of this. I would not necessarily call this a new trend as having an ideal male character to star in a show has been going on since the dawn on the movie industry. However, I believe that it is the presence of these characters and the multiple dimensions they bring to the show is what keeps us watching over and over again.
For those that watch Mad Men, Don Draper is one of the most compelling characters on television. He is good-looking, smart, and even has an intriguing dark side. Furthermore, he lives life to the fullest, attending lavish parties with beautiful women while also constantly smoking and drinking. For those that lived through this era of the 1960’s, Don Draper is the man. Ladies love him and men want to be him and the best part is that this is not some sort of fantasy, this was real life. “…There was a tremendous amount of drinking, three martini lunches were the norm…I smoked three to four packs a day. Everyone smoked at all times in all meetings….There was a tremendous amount of sex, I don’t know of a single marriage to survive that time” (Bruce Horovitz interviewing Jerry Della Femina – a veteran ad executive – for USA Today). Not only are we fascinated by all of the smoking, booze, and sex, but also Don’s secret dark side had audiences on the edge of their seats, wondering what his secret was and than would anyone else find out. If it were not for the character of Don Draper, Mad Men would not be what it is today.
The show Entourage on HBO in many ways is a modern day Mad Men. “Both shows create a fantasy world revolving around the media/entertainment industry, with elaborately designed costumes and glamorous characters. Both sets of protagonists jet around the world in expensive clothes. They attend fancy parties and sleep with beautiful people” (Cline, 2011). Vincent Chase is to Entourage what Don Draper is too Mad Men. Just as we want to be the witty Draper who comes up with brilliant ad campaigns, we also want to live the life of Vince and the persona he exhibits. Vince and his crew spend their days cruising around Hollywood having a blast and conversating with beautiful women. We are happy when Vince is successful and we are sad when he is going through turmoil. Similar to Draper, we watch Don spiral out of control, consumed by sex, drugs, and alcohol and we hope that he pulls himself together.
While Walter White from Breaking Bad might not be the most attractive character, he is the prototypical “bad boy” that everyone seems to love. A character that has a darkness to him that fans of the show become obsessed with. While many may not want to admit it, we all have a little “badness” in us and we do not always want to follow the rules. “Our attraction to this characters is primal: they enact our darkest fantasies of power and violent release” (Almond, 2013). Furthermore, while we like Don Draper and Vincent Chase because they are successful and wealthy, we want the same for Walter. An over-qualified chemistry teacher who gets cancer and can barely make ends meet, but wait he has this amazing skill to cook meth and get rich off of it? Fuck ya, I’m in.
Finally there is Californication’s Hank Moody. Another strong male lead that is attractive, witty, and has a great sense of humor. Again, Hank is another character that tries and gets his life in order but seems to keep getting caught up in the world wind of sex, drugs, and alcohol, while also mixing in a little rock n’ roll. We watch the show because we want to see what kind of trouble he will get into next. He is somewhat brilliant at what he does, similar to Don, Vince, and Walt, and we are in awe of his charisma when his brilliance is on display. “One of Hank’s more appealing traits is his candour. He makes no apologies for who he is and he speaks his mind with very little thought for the consequences. Through his scathing, yet mostly eloquent t comments, Hank deals with people and situations the way that most can only dream of after the event has occurred” (Payton, 2008). Many people admire a person that speaks their mind and the fact that he seems to get beautiful women to sleep with him makes many of us wonder how he just did that.
Therefore, the reason why many audiences are attracted to these shows is the brilliant complexity of the protagonist male lead. They portray confidence, smarts, power, and they play by their own rules. This is the way we subconsciously want to live our lives: by our own rules. So we tune in to see if Don will be able to get out of a downward drinking spiral. What beautiful celebrity will Vince sleep with next? What is Walt going to do with all of that money? What crazy situation will Hank find himself in this time? This is why we watch these shows and why the lead male characters make it so much fun to do so.