#MeToo Also Has Us Making More of the Good Guys

by Heather Robinson


From The New York Post


Hollywood is responding to #MeToo not just by telling stories of female empowerment but also of the quiet decency of many oft-overlooked men.

And no wonder: Shouldn’t we as a culture, even as we call out sleazy and allegedly abusive behavior on the part of certain, often high-powered men, do more to elevate the good men around us? And shouldn’t we incentivize that decency with praise rather than letting ourselves get bored by it and take it for granted?

If popular culture is an indicator, the answer is a resounding yes.

On NBC’s popular primetime show “This is Us,” which returns Tuesday night after a two-week hiatus during the Olympics, the last episode’s big reveal was that the show’s patriarch, Jack Pearson, died after heroically saving his family from a house fire.

But audiences fell for Jack long before this: It was the character’s manly dedication to supporting his family in imperfect, creative ways that won our hearts.

In one episode, Jack attends a father-son karate class with his adopted son, Randall. The karate instructor explains to Randall that as life progresses, and he meets with challenges, his father will support him. At the instructor’s suggestion, Jack drops to do pushups with Randall on his back, continuing past the point of pain in order to show Randall he is willing to sacrifice in order to be his son’s foundation.

In other scenes, such as one in which Jack reassures his chubby teenage daughter Kate of her beauty in his eyes, we saw quiet male strength and faithfulness depicted in daily family life.

Nor is the appetite for portrayal of the common man’s strength and decency confined to fiction this season.

In a remarkable example of what can be magnificent in “ordinary” men, Clint Eastwood’s film, “The 15:17 to Paris,” released earlier this month, depicts real-life heroism on the part of three young men who acted to stop a terrorist aboard a train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015.

Their roles are played not by actors but by the “regular” American heroes themselves: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, childhood friends who, on vacation together in Europe in their early 20s, risked their lives to save countless others.

In New York City, where many reject rigid gender stereotypes, what does it mean to be a good man?

Interviewing faith leaders and nearly two dozen “ordinary” New York City men, a clear theme emerged: Not every man is a hero. But there is honor in living an ethical life day in and day out, even when doing so is hard.

“My stepfather helped me become a man by putting me out of the house,” said Terrance Nivins, 48, a supermarket worker from Linden, NJ. “He said, ‘You’re a grown man, and you’re not paying rent.’ ” After struggling with addiction, Nivins says he’s been “clean and working for three years now.”

Some spoke of putting family first.

“I’ll tell my sons . . . the only way you can be special is by being special to someone else,” said Matt Johnson, 34, a glazier with Local 1087, of Weehauken, NJ, who was grabbing a bite with friends at Whitman and Bloom in Murray Hill. “I’m special to my wife because I earn her trust. If I lose it, I’m just another person.

“Speaking of [being a man,] that’s my favorite song,” he noted when Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero” started playing in the restaurant.

Some spoke of having respect for women.

“Being strong means putting others first,” echoed Chris Ferguson, 42, a Catholic priest from Derry, Ireland, who was visiting friends at Molly’s pub on Third Avenue and 22nd Street.

Others, too, spoke of giving assistance.

Seeing a man stop in the middle of the street to pick up a woman’s scarf that had fallen, I asked him for his take on what makes a good man.

“If someone needs help, give them a hand, just like your grandma and grandpa taught you,” said the man, Mark Platzer, a chiropractor who works in Midtown. “If someone is hurt, pick them up. It’s not always easy, but it’s simple.”

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