Last week, Glenn Beck said that James Bond and Donald Trump are the last male role models for red-blooded American boys. Fawning over the president’s “masculine” energy, Beck said:
He is the almost cartoon of an alpha dog. You know what I mean? And I think because we have taken alpha dogs and shot them all, when he comes to the table there’s a lot of guys that are out there goin’ ‘Damn right!’
The man who may have faked his bone spurs to avoid military service and is reportedly afraid to fire his employees is not an alpha dog. The president has shown himself to be immature — skirting his most important responsibilities, throwing tantrums and folding like a lawn chair when under pressure. Rather than the future of masculinity, Trump embodies some crude caricature of a regressive past where “real men” ate hamburgers before bed and cheat on their wives with porn stars.
Yet for all its outlandishness, Beck’s statement holds some truth. It is hard to find male role models today — not because there aren’t enough men like Donald Trump but because there are too many. With never-ending news swirling around powerful and unethical men, it can be difficult for people looking for male role models to know where to find them.
The #MeToo era makes us face hard truths about the failings of men once lauded in public life, yet here are a few whom I have personally found inspiring. They have remained relatively scandal-free and seem to handle life with grace and humility.
Who else has the creative range to make Acid Rap and Coloring Book? Chance the Rapper is prolific — with a catalog that spans trippy adolescent adventures and gospel odes celebrating the joy and responsibility of fatherhood. The Chicago native embodies the activism and artistry flowing through his hometown. When he’s not winning Grammys and churning out bops with Cardi B, he works in his local community, donates to public schools and puts in work at the local level through his nonprofit Social Works.
With the publication of his 2016 memoir, “Invisible Man Got The Whole World Watching,” Smith grapples with the pitfalls of toxic masculinity and American racism. The book is a refreshing investigation into overlapping identities and the complicated landscape of our political moment. Never afraid of nuance, he writes about politics fluidly while exploring how pop culture icons like Mos Def and Dave Chappelle often both push against and replicate societal inequality. I deeply admire the way Smith uses his writing to embody how his maleness and his blackness have him toggling between oppressor and oppressed.
Ocean taught us the proper way to troll the internet — not with bullying but with a desperate expectation of when his next brilliant artistic project will drop. Renowned for his genre-bending music that infuses surreal imagery with beautiful melodies, Ocean is an artistic genius. The release of Channel Orange coincided with an announcement about his fluid orientation that helped drive hip-hop culture in a more progressive and inclusive direction.
The award-winning director of “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a cinematic mastermind. He wrote the screenplays for both of these films in only six weeks. Jenkins has been brave enough to show humane and fresh pictures of black American life in all its facets. His earth-shattering “Moonlight” took Hollywood’s eyes and placed them on communities typically ignored. A story of masculinity, queerness, race and class, Jenkins brilliantly peeled back the layers of society to tell one of the most compelling love stories in the last decade. As a creative, I love Jenkins because his work shows that artistic integrity and political impact aren’t mutually exclusive.
At 30, Steph Curry is already considered the best shooter in the history of the NBA. But even off the court, Curry has continued to lead the culture. A frequent collaborator with President Barack Obama on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, Curry has leveraged his platform to encourage mentorship, faith and community service. I’ve always revered Curry’s quiet leadership and his ability to prioritize family and service even as a superstar.