I am really interested in exploring the existence of role models for boys, young men and grown men in particular how they influence the formulation/ creation of a man's identity as a man. Since this thread is going to be ongoing and kinda long I'm going to split it into multiple entries.
Are there present day heroes that a boy, teen, young man, middle aged man, or FTM could look to as a moral compass? Anyone he could think of that would set a positive example for him, a hero who has a story to which he can turn for guidance when he find himself in a crisis? Are there any ethical, compassionate, kind, intelligent, heroes out there for boys? What about for men who are already grown up and needing guidance? where do they turn to find heroes? What about teenagers who are quick to emulate anything cool, or transsexuals who are looking to create their own masculinity? Who comes to mind as a positive male role model? Who would you model your perfect male self after? Can role models for men only be other men or is there room for men to learn something about masculinity from women?
I think there are actually a few good men out there (and some excellent women as well) that guys of all ages can learn something from. I will provide examples along the way of men I look up to and would love to hear from anyone who wants to argue a case for their own heroes.
The first real hero I think any man could look up to would be Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. Since many boys are lacking a strong father figure, Dumbledore acts as proof that there are good men in the world who are genuinely interested in the well being of children. Dumbledore is never labelled a pedophile or creep nor is it ever suggested that his realtionship with his students is anything but fatherly. Dumbledore also shows boys that not all men are interested in typical male behaviours such as fighting, drinking, and sex and can be just as interesting if their hobbies include knitting, gardening, and ten pin bowling.
Dumbledore is a kind, wise, old man (wizard) who lets Harry Potter make his own mistakes because he knows that is how he will learn. Fathers take note here, Dumbledore could also be seen as a father figure and men who have children might want to look more specifically at how he interacts with his students. How does he win their affection, hand out discipline, set an example for his students? What is it about him that makes him so loved and respected? He's not perfect at this and he does make mistakes but that in itself is a valuable lesson, no? Nowadays we are so concerned with protecting our children from the world, they grow up and have no idea how to live in it! Dumbledore allows Harry to be hurt, to make his own decisions when faced with them, and live with the consequences of those decisions -just as Dumbledore had to.
Another reason Dumbledore is such a good role model is that while he is fictional he is not perfect; he has made mistakes and he's had to face the consequences of those mistakes. He lives with regrets, with his own if onlys or what ifs. He is constantly faced with decisions that are difficult, and while he tries to be diplomatic and do the right thing, he is also willing to do whatever it takes to follow through on what he thinks is ethical. The right decision is not always the easy one. Dumbledore stands up for what he believes in and is not worried about what others think of him, a hard thing for many of us. All of these are valuable lessons for any boy or any man when faced with having to make choices that may not be popular with others.
Dumbledore is also (according to his creator) a homosexual. Huh. Another excellent lesson in this day and age where it is still particularly difficult for men to come out and still be accepted as men. Dumbledore is a good man, an ethical man, who ultimately sacrifices his own life for something he really believes in. That strength of character is something far more valuable than good looks, athletic ability or money. It will last longer, make you friends, bring you joy, let others experience joy with you and regardless of your sexual orientation it is a quality others will admire. You can be proud of yourself which will help build confidence and self esteem. Knowing who you are and what you stand for will keep you out of trouble, steel you against peer pressure, and set you apart as a leader. You will be a reflection of what kind of man others want to be. That seems like a pretty good place to start.
It is not easy being that kind of man. People will always try to tear you down, gossip behind your back, tell lies, step on you to get ahead. Dumbledore is faced with this very thing even at his age when he speaks the truth about something others fear or do not want to face. All of these lessons can apply to your own life, to the decisions you make every day. If you haven't read the Harry Potter books I recommend them no matter what age you are. If you think you're too old, read them to a kid, your cat, your nephew or even your dog. You might be surprised at the implications made in what might seem to be a simple childrens' fantasy but it's always the books that challenge us to be something more that end up on the banned book list.