Thursday, July 1, 2010


by Ashley Lister

A couple of months ago a student asked me if I had a man-crush on anyone.

ME: “A what?”

STUDENT: “A man-crush.”

ME: “What the fuh- I mean what on earth, is a man crush?”

STUDENT: “It’s when you’re a man, and you have a crush on another man.”

ME: “You mean, am I gay?”

STUDENT: (rolling her eyes) “No. We all know the answer to that one. We’ve seen you wearing a pink shirt. Having a man-crush doesn’t mean you’re gay.”

But, apparently, wearing a pink shirt does! I kept that thought to myself. Instead, I asked her to explain the term man-crush for me. I’ve paraphrased her response here.

A man-crush is ostensibly a nonsexual interest in companionship exhibited by one male for another. Usually the object of a man-crush is a celebrity. And the companionship sought is seldom more explicit than sharing a pint and a leisurely conversation. Invariably, the object of a man-crush is someone whom the subject admires and wishes to emulate.

Personally, I thought this was the same as having a friend or a buddy, but I’m clearly out of touch. So, I tried to think if there was anyone who could be an object for my personal man-crush. Sad to say, in the first instance, I could only come up with fictional characters from TV shows.

The first one was Captain Mal Reynolds from the TV show Firefly (and the movie Serenity). For anyone who’s never seen this series and the movie that followed: you’re missing some of the best scripts to ever grace the large or small screen.

Written by Joss Whedon, and with a superb cast, Firefly/Serenity was a combination of western and science-fiction that was beautiful to watch and endlessly entertaining. Mal was probably one of the most likeable rogues Whedon ever created: a man with a strong sense of justice and physical capability, balanced by sufficient stupidity and bad luck to make him sympathetic.

Talking with a preacher called Book during a meal, Mal shows his tolerant attitude toward religion:

BOOK: “Mind if I say grace?”

MAL: “Only if you say out loud.”

Talking with a disturbed young girl called River, Mal shows his characteristic pragmatism:

RIVER: “I know you have questions.”

MAL: “That would be why I just asked them.”

And, after being offered a unique transaction from the ship’s onboard muscle, Mal wryly observes:

MAL: “Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.”

Mal was played by the actor Nathan Fillion (who also played Captain Hammer in Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog). And, whilst he was my first choice of man-crush, I realised that another of Joss Whedon’s creations would probably usurp him as the true object of my man-crush.

Spike, from Buffy and Angel, was one of the most original villains/anti-heroes to appear on TV.

Spike was introduced as the baddest of bad-ass vampires. Devoted to his beloved Drucilla in the first seasons, Spike looked like Billy Idol with fangs. Not only was he ultra-violent, resourceful and evil, he also had a witty line in dialogue:

BUFFY: What are you doing here? (Spike begins to answer) Five words or less.

SPIKE: (Counting on his fingers) Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch.

Spike eventually became one of the show’s heroes, without really giving up his evil ways. He also made some of the pithiest quotes about love.

SPIKE: You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love 'til it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other 'til it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -- blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.

Perhaps the most compelling factor for my man-crush on Spike came during the last episode of Angel. The world is about to end. Spike, along with the rest of the heroic crew, has been given a night off to enjoy the world for one final evening. He’s a man who has lived for more than a century and shown that his pleasures include kinky sex, excess alcohol and mayhem, mischief and murder. Knowing this could be his last night on earth, he goes to an open mike poetry event and plucks up the courage to read his own verses.

But Mal and Spike are both fictional characters, neither of them really able to accompany me to the pub and be the object of my man-crush. So, if I had to pick a real person, I guess it would be the writer who put those words in their mouth: Joss Whedon.

I won’t bother giving a biography of Whedon on here. There’s enough stuff written about him on fan-sites and imdb for those who are interested. It’s enough to say he’s written some of the most entertaining and intelligent TV shows to hit the airwaves and the characters he creates are consistently enjoyable. He also produces some of the most powerful dialogue that can shift an audience from laughter through to tears.

One of my favourite lines from Buffy, a quote I’ve seen used as the signature line from a respected contemporary poet, came at the end of season five: “The hardest thing in this world…is to live in it.

Anyone capable of crafting that sort of dialogue, is worthy of being the object of my man-crush.


  1. Oh well done, Ash!

    I thoroughly applaud your picks. And to think that for years I spurned the notion of watching a show called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Silly me! Ten years after the show went off the air, a friend loaned us his full set of the DVDs and I was totally hooked.

    Do you like the musical episode?

    Firefly was a gift from a friend and equally a work of genius.

    I think the object of your crush is eminently worthy.


  2. Lisabet,

    I had similar reservations about Buffy. The title was off-putting, but I figured it would be worth a glance. I am so proud of myself for making that decision.

    The musical episode was inspired. I loved the way Whedon played to the strengths of his cast and their abilities. Dr Horrible, which I mentioned, shows that Whedon has polished his musical talents since making that episode.



  3. I will agree wholeheartedly to both, and praise them as characters most worthy of the "man-crush" status.

    btw also two of my favorite characters ever


  4. Shen,

    I'm glad we're in agreement. I had also thought of mentioning Wesley from Angel - a character who had been slowly developing and growing and maturing since he first appeared in Buffy - but I didn't want to sound like a geek ;-)



  5. This was an interesting question, indeed and I think you made a fine choice.

    Some of the guys I hang out with also discuss their "go-to guys" which are the men that, if they absolutely had to, they would sleep with. That makes for an incredibly facinating conversation, let me assure you!!

    I won't ask you . . . unless you want to say. :)

  6. Heidi,

    'go-to-guys' I think I like the sound of that better than 'man-crush.'

    Would I sleep with any of those I mentioned? Thank goodness you didn't ask that question, otherwise I might have had to answer it ;-)



  7. I've said it before and, well, I say it pretty-much all the time: Joss Whedon is god. And you know right-well where I stand on the question of Spike.

    That quote about love still knocks me out, but really, they all do. Absolutely, hands down, the best-written television, ever!

    I think I've always had a fantasy of fucking genius, whether male or female. Genius is dead sexy. But whether fucking genius or just hanging out with genius, I can't think of anyone I'd rather do that with more, actually.

    And, by the way, did you know about Nathan Fillion's new character, Rick Castle? I don't know if you get the show, but it's a real fave of mine and one I know you'd love. It's about a best-selling mystery writer who, due to his friendship with the mayor, gets to team up with a NYPD detective squad and help solve crime. The scripts are so well written, it's obvious it's written by writers, for writers--and maybe other people too...

  8. There's something dead sexy about genius writing. Maybe I'll have to give Buffy a go.

  9. Ash -- Not sure about Spike, but Mal is definitly worthy of a man-crush. Or a real crush. Or maybe just plain 'ol lust! LOL

    I also love Fillion's new character - Castle. Oh la la!

    I rather enjoyed Whedon's new show -- Dollhouse -- until the last few episodes when stuff started getting silly. No Fillion, but lots of other Firefly actors.


  10. Hi Ash

    The hardest hing about the world is to live it. I can really relate to that right now.

    A man-crush? Have to add that one to my vocabulary. I also wonder if that is just what it used to be being friends between guys.


  11. Diane,

    When I was writing this piece I was thinking about you and your visit to Blackpool. I almost ended up writing about my Faith/Eliza Dushku yearning, which I believe we discussed in in-depth.

    I haven't seen Castle. It's not been shown in the UK yet. But I have heard wonderful things about it and it's on my wish list for Christmas DVDs.



  12. Kathleen,

    I hope you get a chance to check out the show. I really enjoyed it whilst it was running, and can still enjoy going back to old episodes.

    The strength of the characters - and the dialogue they use to come to life - is brilliant.


  13. Michelle,

    I couldn't get into Dollhouse. I liked the idea, and I could have rambled on for pages if I'd chosen Eliza Dushku as the source of my crush. But I thought the opening episode was trying to do too much - so I never got any further with it.



  14. Garce,

    It's quite a relatable quote, isn't it?

    Man-crush was one of the many things my students taught me this year. Others include the lesson that wearing a pink shirt means you're gay, and 'Of Mice and Men' was written by John Stickleback.

    It's been an informative year :-)



  15. Ash -- I had problems with the first few episodes, but after it started leveling out (and got past the first three episode pilot run) I really got into it.

    Had the same problem with West Wing. After the first episode, which I had issues with how it all opened, I fell in love with the show.

  16. Michelle,

    The opening was a slow-burner but it also had the quality so, when it's watched again, you can see the character foundations that are being laid down.

    Full of crush-worthy characters ;-)


  17. Who WOULDN'T have a man-crush on those three men? Especially Mal. God, Mal. Like an even sexier, somehow better Han Solo. I didn't even think that was possible, until I watched Firefly.

    Great picks, Ashley. And P.S.- Castle is on the channel Alibi over here, I believe!

  18. Hi Charlotte,

    I got all excited for a moment there before discovering that our TV set doesn't get Alibi :-(

    Nevertheless, I can now badger the family into buying me a DVD boxset for my birthday ;-)




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