They are muscular, very attractive, easily angered and prone to violence. There are exceptions, of course, but more often than not we see that with popular franchises. Thor by Chris Hemsworth and Superman by Henry Cavill come to mind.
Chris Evans’ Captain America is an exception, but even his physique is too tucked up to be an alternative take on the Hollywood protagonist.
We’re so used to this image of our action heroes and superheroes appearing in movies and even TV shows that we don’t even question it. That’s the natural portrayal of men, Hollywood, like the rest of pop culture, has brainwashed us into thinking. They may have internal conflicts, but are essentially highly unrealistic representations of masculinity, of real men.
A major exception to those images is Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander. Newt Scamander, the protagonist of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which is part of Wizarding World, was mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies as a legendary expert on rare fantastic creatures such as Nifflers, Murtlaps, Occamies, Thunderbirds and Bowtruckles.
But in the prequel franchise that explores the battle against a dark lord who came before Voldemort: Gellert Grindelwald, he’s the hero, and despite the quality of the second film, we’re better off for it.
True to his modern reputation (in the wizarding world), Newt really, really loves magical creatures. He is shy, modest and gentle. Even a little submissive. The scenes that most illustrate these qualities are when he is with the creatures that inhabit his unusually roomy briefcase.
For example, in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, where he and Jacob Kowalski, his No-Maj friend played by Dan Fogler, explore the world inside the briefcase. While caring for the creatures, Newt comes across a huge nest filled with Occamy babies. He shows the disposition of a long-suffering nanny and says, “Okay, I’m coming. Mom is here.”
We are used to angry men in our daily entertainment. Almost every movie or show has at least one. The only times Newt loses his cool is when his creatures are endangered, and even then it’s kind of submissive rage, like he’s ashamed of the emotion and it’s inappropriate for him. The qualities Newt possesses are usually considered feminine: caring, tenderness and submission.
Those aren’t generally considered “heroic” qualities, and yet Newt is more of a hero than most movie protagonists. He may not be interested in saving the world like Harry Potter – despite Grindelwald’s looming threat, he wants to be left alone with his creatures – he would lay down his life for his friends and loved ones, and is actually quite a capable wizard. Above all, he despises power and fame. All this is cleverly told by contrasting Newt with his older brother Theseus.
Now Theseus, though a good person at heart, is a Harry Potter stand-in, a powerful, popular wizard who embraces power and fame. It’s not a bad look, and Potter is clearly one of the most complex and interesting main characters in popular fantasy anyway. We were made to follow his battle with sudden fame and the pressure to be the prophesied to end Voldemort. However, he is not much of a different character from other fantasy heroes, who are saddled with enormous responsibility and after fighting it, take their destiny into their own hands.
But Newt shuns power and it’s only thanks to the urging of a younger Albus Dumbledore and witnessing the love of his life Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz)’s death as a sacrifice to save others from Grindelwald, he becomes devoted. to the fact that Grindelwald is a danger to the whole world – wizards or muggles. He is in this war among the wizarding community.
Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt is no exception. He is repeatedly drawn to similar roles. It is probably because he sees a resemblance between them and himself, and for that reason he is extremely good at them.