Why We Need More Sensitive Male Protagonists (ft. Newt Scamander)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an Infinity Talk, but I’m back now with a new discussion topic. As you can tell from the title, today’s topic is the male protagonist. More specifically, why we need more sensitive or otherwise atypical male protagonists instead of the same male characters we see being reused in every book and Hollywood movie.

I was inspired to write this post after watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin off movie about the famous Magizoologist from the Harry Potter universe. I watched the movie for the second time on Sunday after seeing it in the cinema when it released. Before I get started, I need to make a confession: I didn’t like Newt the first time I saw Fantastic Beasts. I thought he was bland, a tad boring, and lacked any real character development. While I thought the movie was decent and enjoyable, I didn’t connect to Newt.

I didn’t think much of my opinion until I saw it a second time this past Sunday. This time, I fell in love with the character. So, what changed? To be honest, I was more critical of the material this time around and really thought about why Newt was different from other male protagonists.

And then it hit me. Newt is not a typical male protagonist. He’s not physically strong, witty, boisterous, particularly charming or charismatic like other male characters (especially in sci-fi and fantasy books and movies). Just think of Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Kirk …

A lot of male protagonists hide their vulnerability, but not Newt. He’s quiet and vulnerable and highly empathetic. Now, these traits are also found in other male characters aside from Newt – just think of all the quiet “geeks” and “nerds” who are often love interests – but they’re rarely the protagonist of the story. Especially when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi. And when they are, they most likely have low-esteem when it comes to women and their own masculinity.

Newt is different. He appears to be completely confident with who he is and what his purpose his. This is another interesting difference between Newt and other male protagonists. Newt’s purpose is to write textbooks so others will understand these Fantastic Beasts he loves. His main talent is empathy. Not just for the animals, but also for humans, even though he finds it harder to connect with other people.

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He’s sensitive and emotional, which is framed as a strength and not a weakness. Again, this is very rare. Male protagonists are expected to save the girl, go on an epic quest, defeat the evil overlords who want to destroy the world … If those male protagonists were to showcase sensitivity and vulnerability, they would be labeled as “weak” because these traits are associated with women and femininity.

This is ultimately why “atypical” male protagonists are important. By showing sensitivity and vulnerability can also be heroic traits, a character like Newt challenges the gender stereotypes and expectations. But we need more of them. We need more atypical male protagonists in mainstream media. If not, they will never be considered anything else but atypical, boring, and bland characters instead of being recognised for what they truly are–valid heroes of any given story.

What do you think? Do you agree? Can you think of other male protagonists like Newt? 

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14 thoughts on “Why We Need More Sensitive Male Protagonists (ft. Newt Scamander)

  1. Oh, Lauren, this is such an amazing post! Thank you for writing it. I SO agree with you on the fact that we need more characters just like Newt being heroes of the stories. I do not think that portraying a male character with more sensitivity and emotions should be considered as wrong or anything else, it’s just human – everyone is different and has different emotions and ways of showing it. It is a bit of a shame that main characters aren’t more often shown as vulnerable and well, just everything you used here to describe Newt, basically. I NEED more of that for sure! (also, I’ll be looking forward to other comments and recommendations of books on this post ahah 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow this is such a great topic! I never thought of that before, but I definitely agree! Frankly if we showcase atypical males more often then the whole idea of men not being allowed to cry or be affectionate or what have you could very possibly be erased!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We love those sassy and brassy male protags — but Newts are amazing too!!! I think that boys are raised in a way to not care a lot or be as empathetic, lest they be “feminine” and “weak” –but as our world is changing, so should our books! I still think that some boys find it hard to show their vulnerability (they’re made fun of 😥 ), but it’s definitely something I want to see in books!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Agreed entirely! I think if we need to empower girls and women, we need to not only change the way women are portrayed in films and literature but also men as well. We should teach boys that being sensitive, caring and empathetic are valuable traits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely. Both sides have stereotypes and expectations that need to go so everyone can just be who they want to be without feeling like they’ll be judged for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on A-Z Books and commented:
    I feel like this fits well into all my rants and posts about my displeasure with the way male protagonists aren’t portrayed. Male characters need to break down barriers too. I like this reading of Fantastic Beasts and of Newt and how that plays into the portrayal of men in fantasy and Sci-Fi!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope you don’t mind that I shared this but I’ve literally done two posts in the last month talking about how I don’t like the way stock male characters/most male characters are written. This is an intriguing reading of the movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow I’ve never actually thought about this, but I agree! I think that’s what makes this new series so special. These characters are different from the status quo, and I hope more films follow JKR’s example!

    Liked by 1 person

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