This week’s Web Crush is one of those “I can’t believe it took me this long to write about this!” type of deals, since I’ve been reading and rereading and sighing over this webcomic for months now—but let me back up a little and actually introduce it. Today I want to tell you about a sweet little thing called Check, Please!by Ngozi Ukazu. It has cute art, soft bros, young men falling in love and having a healthy relationship, and for those of you who are into that sort of thing—ice hockey.
Today’s topic came about from conversations I’ve been having with Lady Geek Girl. We both love Lucifer, the TV show which follows the devil’s shenanigans in L.A. and which just returned for its second season. I enjoy the show because I’m a sucker for procedural shows and I have a lack of immunity towards charming jerks. But today I want to talk about one matter that both intrigues me and worries me—how the portrayal of Lucifer’s masculinity relates to the fact that being near one specific woman makes Lucifer, who otherwise cannot be harmed by humans, physically vulnerable. What intrigues me is how Lucifer deals with the emotions this causes, but the potential messages of toxic masculinity and misogyny are quite disconcerting.
Sean Connery once said that “there is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in a man.” Of course this is just as true for women as it is for men, but the statement contains a certain subtext about masculinity. Failure to thrive under pressure is the trait of a boy, not a man. There are these calls to action that are supposed to define us as men. Defeating a challenge is one; capability for violence is another. Men are generally well aware of the cultural pressures on us to be violent. Even though most of us are not violent people, we still sometimes feel the need to respond to the pressure by asserting that we would be very dangerous if we wanted to. The two ideas are at odds: societal norms that say men are violent while violence actually has nothing to do with masculinity. It can certainly be argued that a male’s inclination toward violence coupled with the ability to back it up has served both males and the human species as a whole quite well in the past. However, what was a virtue in the past is not necessarily a virtue today. And even if violence were hardwired into men, we’re still much more than just blood-thirsty beasts. And the reason we play violent games is more than our own bloodlust. So why, then, do so many games portray violence and masculinity as being so closely intertwined? Let’s take a look at some of these games. In particular, we’ll look at: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; and a lot of God of War. Just a warning, this whole article is going to be chock-full of spoilers, so read cautiously. What these games all have in common is that they make a statement about the connection between masculinity and violence. They deal with issues like “is violence rewarding,” “can violence defeat evil,” and “is violence just how men deal with their emotions?” What lies beneath all of those statements are these facts: men are not very free from cultural norms, men are not empowered or nurtured properly as men, and society seems to have no idea of what masculinity is at all.