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In Search of a Manly Man

My son, who’s in middle school, came home from his church small group with an unusual homework assignment: find a “manly” man. Not just any manly man will do—this must be a “cool dude” on a TV show. Is there such a creature? A cool, manly man on a TV show my son could watch?

We have pretty much given up on network TV at our house over the last few years, as there was really nothing we could find to watch that was worth more than our family time together in the evenings. Nonetheless, I scoured the Web sites of the major networks, searching for a show that might meet the criteria. Lots of sex, hype, and reality shows, but nothing that looked like it might have a suitable character—unless it had a TV-14 rating. As my son is only eleven, that will not do. I do not want to expose him to mature situations just to show him how a manly man would handle them. I do, however, want him to have characters to look up to and learn from.

Are there shows today aimed at young people that will show them a cool, manly man? Plenty of shows from my childhood come to mind, such as Little House on the Prairie, the Brady Bunch, Andy Griffith, and Leave It to Beaver. Granted, those men may not have been “cool” by today’s standards, but they were men of character and everyone around them respected them. Today’s shows seem much more likely to have the father portrayed as a clueless buffoon rather than someone worthy of respect. So, my search continues for the cool, manly man on TV. If you find one, will you let me know?

Meanwhile, I’ll ask my son to read this Rudyard Kipling poem instead:

“IF”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

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