Man Up (?)
Whoa, whoa! Slow down. I know you want to say “Chuck Norris,” but hear me out.
The internet-meme-turned-annoying-T-shirt-franchise Chuck Norris Facts is actually a solid starting point for our discussion, as the Ideal of Chuck Norris seems to have overtaken the man himself – at least, that’s what I gather after finding that www.chucknorrisfacts.com outranks the actor’s actual homepage on a Google search.
Quasi-facts like “Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise” speak to the notion of a man skilled at everything, beyond limits, always in control (to the extent that he also apparently has no need for a CTRL key on his computer). A man to aspire to, were it in any way possible.
And as Jason Statham’s reputation for absurd superhumanity builds through movies each more reality-defying than the last (per Television Without Pity: “Statham does not get dressed; he briefly considers it and his skin cells instantly transform themselves into tailored suits out of sheer terror”), expect the trend to continue as we search for a true representation of the archetype of Manliness.
Keep in mind, this need not be a physically intimidating man – my personal favorite example of this trend lies in Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign, featuring a distinguished, bearded older gent who, reportedly, “can speak French – in Russian,” and other feats of smooth, if illogical, awesomeness.
But is there a man out there who actually embodies the renaissance-manliness that has so far only been dreamt of by bloggers and beer advertisers?
I believe so: his name is Dolph Lundgren.
Lundgren, best known as Rocky’s nemesis Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (“Rocky Defeats Communism,” not to be confused with the third installment, “Rocky Learns to Dance Like a Black Guy”), is a man of many talents, and “actor” is actually the least of them. For instance, did you know that Dolph Lundgren:
- is a skilled martial artist, recently earning a third-degree black belt
- holds a masters degree in chemical engineering
- plays the drums
- speaks fluent Swedish, English and German, while also dabbling in Spanish and Japanese, and
- served in the Swedish Marines.
These aren’t made up. These are actual Dolph Lundgren Facts (not that IMDB hasn’t been known to fudge a few details, but it all seems to check out).
In fact, the only field where Lundgren does not seem to excel – at least at first glance – is in the area he is best known, as thespian. And while at first I thought this tragically ironic (the man who is talented in so many fields cannot master the one thing his heart might yearn for – to be someone else!), I thought about the four films I’ve seen him in, and realized I may have underestimated the man.
In Rocky IV, he is suitably convincing as a monosyllabic fighting machine. In The Punisher, he effectively conveys the personality of an emotionless killer. In Masters of the Universe, he manages to perform while also wearing clearly binding black rubber underwear (and a diligent waxing protocol!). And in Johnny Mnemonic, he seems at home as a crazy person in a pretty crazy movie.
Based on this partial resume, I now believe that on top of everything else, Dolph Lundgren actually has mastered acting, albeit in a very small niche, to his satisfaction.
So I posit this: the finest example of manliness – the impossible ideal, as we’ve concocted by mythologizing real people (like Norris) and creating from whole cloth (the Most Interesting Man in the World) does exist…in Dolph Lundgren.
If you disagree, I would advise you to take it up with the man himself. But be warned – he can cripple you with his incredibly long limbs, or with the power of science itself. Not that he would. Because on top of his other vast areas of knowledge, he is also incredibly humble.
And isn’t that the true measure of a man?