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.