I’ve really taken to Boston Legal, more than I did The Practice. And watching the two male leads, Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner) made me think that this is possibly the most honest relationship between two men on television. Not because they’re emotionally close and affectionate, but precisely the opposite.
Shore and Crane are both highly-strung macho men who can’t admit to being fond of one another so they hide behind cigars and talk of sex. It’s a sad but honest portrayal of society’s expectation that men be macho and, taking it further, of men’s inability to be emotionally intimate, especially with one another.
Crane was once a legal legend, but degeneration has made inroads into his brilliant mind so he spends much of his time mourning for his days of legend; Shore, as his protÃ©gÃ©, knows that he too, is great, and he too will peak and then slide backwards. These two men who are legendary lawyers with the world at their feet are pathologically terrified of growing old and no longer being the best. Since time immemorial women have been portrayed of being insecure, so to see men portrayed the same way is refreshing.
Shore and Crane are both hugely successful, misogynistic, desperately unhappy, unfulfilled men. In a way, they are as much victims of the patriarchy as the patriarchy’s more obvious victims; they’ve been told all their lives to succeed, succeed, succeed, to get to the top of the hill, and what do they see when they get to the top; the slide into oblivion. They are men so obsessed with fulfilling their roles as macho providers that they’ve lost the ability to be emotionally intimate, and it is impossible to envy what success they have found. They are unable to relate to women as more then sex objects, and they’re portrayed as victims for this loss of emotional intimacy at least as much as the women they relate to as sex objects.
So good is Spader at this role – and a similar lost, pathetic character in Secretary – that I refused to believe it was him playing Daniel Jackson in the Stargate movie until I saw it. I’ve still half-convinced it’s really Michael Shanks under a different name.
I am, of course, sorry that such characters, and such men, exist, as I am that their female characters exist. But I find it incredibly refreshing that men have finally been portrayed as sad, pathetic creatures despite their material wealth, as victim’s of the patriarchy’s orders for men to be men. Perhaps the writers of the world have become more aware of the lack of such characters. Enough to create at least two Emmy-winning roles.
Baby steps, mate. Baby steps.
Next, my rave on BL‘s creation of the ballsiest forty-plus woman in television: Shirley Schmit (and unlike Mary Magdelene, I promise to come through on this one!)