Wolverine and the Four Archetypes of Manliness

What exactly is it about Wolverine that makes him the man that he is? Is it the claws? The healing factor? Maybe it's just all that testosterone...

“What makes a man? Is it the power in his hands? Is it his quest for glory?”  Wait, is that a euphemism? I’m pretty sure it is.Anywho. What about Wolverine? Is he a man because of the power in his hands – which we will attribute to his claws (get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty bird). I must admit that every time I see a trailer for The Wolverine, featuring Hugh Jackman in all his grimacing, beefcake, wife-beater wearing glory, I think to myself, “Now there is a manly man.”Yes, we can all agree that he is a man’s man. Right? Yet not all men, not even all X-Men, are created equal. The unequivocal hotness of Jackman’s Wolverine is more on par with the new, lumberjack-esque Superman (whose love of scruffy beards and flannel knows no bounds), than it is with the smoothed out, pirate-goatee wearing manliness of billionaire playboy Tony Stark.I hate to attribute their differences to money (despite the fact that the first time we saw Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men film, Rogue was hiding out in the back of his filthy, dilapidated, mobile home). Maybe Stark can just afford a better beard trimmer and finer undershirts? No, no, that can’t be it. Even outside of the movies, comic book Wolverine has always been a more rough and tumble, burly, dude; not a metrosexual.The long, sad, life of James Howlett.Unlike Hugh Jackman, Wolverine did not roll out of his mother’s womb with a rocking hard six pack. No, his humble beginnings were far less manly. Born James Howlett in late 19th century Canada, he was sickly and small. Despite this, he grew into his mutant abilities, his six pack abs, his swarthy chest hair, and found himself at home with his physicality. Yes, first came murder, abuse, devastating betrayal, bloodshed, and some weird running with the wolves episode; but in the end that little wussy caterpillar spun his cocoon and transformed into a swarthy, sexy-time weasel.
Yes, a weasel. Wolverines are a hardy little animal species in the Mustelidae family. Blame Len Wein, or do what I do and imagine that he’s a swarthy, sexy time badger. It just sounds better.But I digress, we were talking about manliness, not weird rodents.Wolverine is distinctive, and not just for his bright yellow costume, or even the claws that mark him as a mutant. He is unique in the Marvel Universe, amid its endless supply of tall, clean shaven, and smoothly muscled superheroes. Logan has character. Wolverine is stocky, hairy, and animalistic. He fights savagely, curses, has outburst of temper, and drinks to excess. He never fit the all-American hero mold. Instead, Wolverine looks like a throwback to the days of the grizzled, world weary sergeant who could always be found with a cigar clenched tightly between his teeth. The gruff soldier who fought with his helmet askew and the sleeves of his BDUs rolled up to show his hairy, bulging, forearms.Wolverine’s manliness comes from his ability to get down and dirty. He’s the guy who ain’t afraid to get elbow deep in the muck and grime and do what is necessary, although morally vague. And it is that last bit which makes him unique amongst his plucked and shaved superhero peers (ahem, Captain America, ahem) and among archetypes of masculinity.What the hell are the archetypes of masculinity? Let me circle around to my first question: what makes a man?Who tells us what is acceptable as “masculine”? Unfortunately, we can blame this on society (ye heartless bitch). Studies show that dudes form hierarchies with an alpha male, beta male, and so on down the chain. The higher your rank in testosterone land, the more autonomy you have to do what you damn well please while dictating what is acceptably “manly” to the rest of the group. Sorry guys, blame your balls (and science).Side note: author Christopher Moore gleefully explores the differences between alpha and beta males in his book A Dirty Job: the alpha male runs headlong into conflicts and gets himself killed while the beta male stays home and hooks up with the alpha’s widow.What does this mean for Wolverine? Sure he answers to Professor X and grudgingly takes orders from Cyclops, but at the end of the day he is a fully functioning and autonomous alpha male. He can do what he wants, when he wants, and not cave to the peer pressure to conform to “acceptable” group standards. By group standards, I mean that Wolverine is still the beer swilling grizzly bear that he was back in the 1970s; you know, back when hairy dudes were still in style. The years have changed. He has not. Try to imagine him walking around in skinny jeans and a hipster haircut. Not going to happen.But as Carl Jung would tell us, alpha male behavior and the exemption it gives you from skinny jeans does not an archetype make.The four archetypes of masculinity.(with apologies to Robert Moore, Carl Jung, et al)The WarriorSuperhero Example: Thor, ColossusThe brawler who will put his life on the line and go down swinging for the greater good, oh and he NEVER beats people to death with his fists (or claws) out of anger.The LoverSuperhero Example: Nightcrawler, IcemanThe guy who will never, ever, ever get out of the friendzone. Ever. He wears a cardigan over his button down shirt and drinks chai tea while being emotionally available.The MagicianSuperhero Example: Beast, Professor XThe nerd. Think you know Star Trek? He will debate you about the cultural differences between Vulcans and Romulans while speaking Klingon.The KingSuperhero Example: Cyclops, Captain AmericaManages to be a perfect balance of every good trait found in the other archetypes while not being a pompous blowhard.Which begs the question, where does Wolverine fit in all this? Sure, he is most easily pigeonholed into the Warrior role. But he really does love to beat people with his fists out of anger. Maybe, that’s the answer right there! What makes Wolverine a man is ultimately his ability to be his own man and decide his own fate. He is not tied to his power through obligation.It’s in his hands.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!