How a Cartoon Character Shows True MasculinitySep 06, 2023
In this modern age, we have so many "examples" of masculinity. They are either on one end, where they're overly machismo, or they're on the other end, where they're not strong enough. All these examples pale in comparison to this one example from a cartoon that came out 20 years ago. This post will be about how a cartoon character shows true masculinity.
There are so few good examples of masculinity in the modern day which causes a lot of young men to be led astray. They go down a path with a lot of backtracking required.
So much of what masculinity is being pushed as is a super polarized idea of only one aspect of what it means to be masculine. If you only focus on that one aspect, you end up being unbalanced and incomplete.
Uncle Iroh, the cartoon character in question, is the best example of masculinity I could find in this day and age. Here's how a cartoon character shows true masculinity.
1. Proper humility, the root of wisdom and patience
Contrary to what some may think, humility is the way to become truly whole. As long as you remain prideful, you will be controlled by your shame and ego. When we see men who are unable to reign in their pride, we see men who lack masculinity when it matters most.
It is an important aspect of masculinity to be able to admit your mistakes. If you cannot own up to your own mistakes, then you will never see true improvement.
More importantly, without proper humility, you will never be able to make true connections with others. As long as you are clouded by pride, you will be too self-centered to empathize when you need it.
Uncle Iroh shows this multiple times throughout the show he's in.
On many occasions, his nephew Zuko is very hot-headed and doesn't take Iroh's advice into serious consideration. Zuko considers his advice to be that of an old man past his prime.
This treatment does not deter Iroh from being the best role model he can be. He continues to treat his nephew well and be the guidance he needs while Zuko is exiled.
On another occasion, Iroh is getting mugged by a thief with a very poor stance. Instead of wiping the floor with the thief, he points out his stance, shows him why it's bad, corrects it, and then tells him to believe in himself more.
This is not me telling you to be ok with getting robbed. Iroh has martial experience, having been a general and fighting wars.
However, this only emphasizes the humility Iroh has. Rather than let pride lead him to wipe the floor with the thief, he takes the time to correct him in more ways than just his stance.
The most important example of Iroh's humility is when he celebrates his son's birthday.
Iroh's son died in the war he led on the Earth Kingdom years ago. In the war that Iroh himself pushed for, his son died by his orders.
Iroh could've sought revenge for his son by continuing the war and pushing it to its end. However, he instead chooses not to.
After his son died, he was no longer ignorant of the suffering he caused. He chose to pull back and admit his mistake.
There's nothing he can do to bring his son back, but he can learn and grow to become a better man.
From Iroh's example, we learn that humility is important to become wiser and gentler while still being able to retain our strength.
2. Proper Integrity, the root of authenticity and strength
How many times have you seen people behaving like sheep? It's annoying, but it isn't without reason. They follow the pack to avoid conflict because they don't want to deal with conflict. However, these people also tend to lack any sort of backbone. They can't stand up for what they believe in when it matters.
To be a proper man, you need proper principles. It is not enough to be strong or humble. After all, your values need a backbone to support them.
This is where integrity comes in. Integrity is when you can stick to your values even when it's difficult, and stick to them even if it would make life more difficult.
As Uncle Iroh was born in the Fire Nation, he is loyal to it. He believes in the prosperity of the Nation and the good of its people.
However, even more than that, Iroh believes in the good and balance of the world. More than the good of his home country, he wants to preserve the good of the world for everybody.
We see this during the siege of the North where Iroh is giving advice to the Fire Nation general leading the siege. He gives him advice on how to win most efficiently, up until Iroh learns of the general's plans to kill the moon spirit.
If the moon spirit dies, the balance would cease as the power of water would cease to be. The waves would stop moving, water would stagnate, and water bending would no longer exist.
At the final moment, Iroh gives the general a choice. He can kill the moon spirit, but whatever he does to that spirit he will unleash on him tenfold. And he does.
Here we see prominent examples of Iroh's integrity.
On one hand, he shows that he prioritizes the good of the world over the good of the Nation he was born to. He values the balance remaining balanced and intends to protect it.
On the other hand, we see another aspect of Iroh that is repeated throughout the show. He doesn't force anybody into making decisions, he always lets them choose, and if there is to be a consequence for their actions he will make it known.
In a high-stakes situation that could've ended very badly for him, Uncle Iroh sticks to his values even when dishing out ass-woopings.
3. Proper humor, that which rounds out an individual
I have no doubts you know somebody who is too serious for their own good. They're always stuck up or being too stiff. They can't relax no matter what they do unless the situation calls for it. These people are pretty terrible to be around and could learn a thing or two from Uncle Iroh.
In order to live a good life, you first need to actually enjoy life. This is very hard to do if there's nothing you actually enjoy.
More importantly, you need to be able to enjoy what you enjoy without shame. Unfortunately, many men have this problem.
Many men feel unable to enjoy what they enjoy because they've been raised to believe it isn't manly or it's something shameful. So, they hide it away.
That doesn't change that they like it. So they end up denying a part of themselves in order to have a chance of fitting in socially.
Uncle Iroh is the perfect example of not only liking something not traditionally manly, at least in the West but also sticking to it.
Uncle Iroh has a passion for tea. He loves it so much that he opens his own tea shop.
After working for a tea shop and giving that shop's tea a try, he says that their tea is not tea, it's just hot leaf juice. This leads him to open his own shop.
His shop becomes a huge success, bringing in customers who love his tea.
The other part of Iroh's humor is seen throughout the entire show. Iroh is introduced as the comedic relief character, the opposite of his serious nephew.
There are many instances in the show where Iroh is in a situation where comedy isn't called for, and he still makes it happen. A perfect example of this is when his nephew is called an angry jerk, the person says no offense, and Iroh says 'none taken' in an understanding tone.
Iroh's example of humor shows us the power of being light-hearted and jovial. There is power in being able to laugh and smile, and even more so when it is properly timed.
At the same time, Iroh's humor is either self-deprecating or just straight-up funny at nobody's expense. The ability to laugh at yourself and have a good time is invaluable to becoming likable.
Finally, Iroh knows when to be funny and when to be stoic and serious. Balance is required to be properly masculine and Iroh's example is the perfect one of how to be balanced.
In one episode, Iroh is teaching Zuko how to lightning bend. He tells him he needs to properly direct energy, saying that the belly is where energy gathers.
He refers to it as a lake and then jokes that in his case it's more like a vast ocean, referring to his big belly. Then right after, he goes back to being a serious teacher.
Being humorous is about being able to enjoy life in all its different tones and shades. In order to do this, you need to be able to slow down and enjoy what you enjoy while having good laughs along the way.
A new take on masculinity
Although the cartoon Iroh showed up in was aired about 20 years ago, his example of masculinity is even more prevalent today. When we have a severe lack of masculine models for men to follow, we need someone like Iroh more than ever.
Through Iroh's example, we can learn to become the men that this world needs to steer it onto the right course. Not through force or regime, but through love and wisdom.