Newt Scamander derailed my Friday cleaning ritual, and he’s been on my mind ever since. I usually watch a film as I clean, something frothy and sweet and easy to follow as I fold socks. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had been on my queue due to Eddie Redmayne’s top billing. If Eddie’s in, I’m in – that rule has yet to steer me wrong.
But no sock folding was happening. Instead, I sat down on the couch and took notes.
Folks, Newt is the new anti- antihero. Let me lead with my most significant point here. He cries onscreen in this film three times. And not for the typical ‘manly’ exceptions – a girlfriend or child’s violent death, mass genocide, a buddy’s untimely end in the trenches.
He cries when separated from a pet, when he has to say goodbye to a male friend (temporarily!) and out of empathy for a friend’s suffering.
That is epic, and I mean that word very literally. The Greek epic heroes openly and freely wept, with no worries that aspersions would be cast upon their manliness for doing so. Lancelot wept when separated from Guinevere. Jesus wept when a guy died that he then immediately resurrected. Achilles, Lancelot and Jesus are pretty heavy hitters, obvs. But in modern narratives, how often do our hero protagonists cry?
What is NOT epic, but in fact seems pretty damn modern and original, is that Newt doesn’t do a lot of “heroic” stuff. He doesn’t spend hours a day pumping iron to get superhero cut. He doesn’t fight, even when captured, stolen from, or imprisoned. He doesn’t yell, not once, despite all the action and antics. He doesn’t put the moves on the girl, or even boss her around. He does not act autonomously, without regard for his companions. He does not claim to be (and is not) a savior, or indeed, exceptional in any way, save his love for animals..
He is gentle and peaceful and a de-escalator and empathetic. His overarching goal is to write an academic textbook. And he is the central character of a major Hollywood blockbuster.
Could Newt be the first major example of a heroic trope or prototype? Could we finally be evolving to the point where little boys have examples of heroes that are nurturing, empathetic, vulnerable and have average musculature?
Because those qualities are really attractive, both to the ladies, and to our society at large. I’d rather have one Newt Scamander on my problem-solving team than ten Tony Starks. Turns out that in real life, a man who cries with you in sympathy is a lot more useful than one with a grenade launcher at the ready.