Casting an incompromisingly modern eye over the pumped-up alpha dudes that once ruled Hollywood
Sean Connery, Goldfinger (1964)
My word Jimmy B, you may act in the interests of Queen and country, but that certainly doesn’t extend to the general female populace or non-Britons. Bond happily lays waste to gold magnate Goldfinger’s Chinese henchmen to prevent Western bullion being devalued, tells a love interest to sod off because he has to engage in ‘man talk’ – and slaps her butt as she leaves – and generally uses women as a receptacle for his raging libido, then discards them as quickly as they are drowned in gold as punishment for sleeping with him.
Most problematic moment: An excruciatingly uncomfortable fight scene where Bond forces himself on Pussy Galore as she tries to fend off his sexual assault to no avail – made even more objectionable by the fact that Galore is actually written as a lesbian in the book.
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, sadistic violence, emotional detachment from death, blind patriotism, fetishisation of guns, heroic alcoholism
Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon (1987)
Unlike a lot of the characters on this list, the unhinged Martin Riggs is at least troubled by his own obvious psychopathy. That does not, of course, preclude him from joking about people he’s just killed, hitting on his friend’s (very young) daughter or referring to one Asian-American man as a ‘chink’. In later films, Riggs’ character would be softened somewhat, but the guy would always be, at heart, an awful human being.
Most problematic moment: There’s a lot to choose from, but probably when he visibly expresses disgust at the idea of two women being in a gay relationship with each other.
Guilty of: Casual racism, emotional detachment from death, defensive homophobia, no female friends, fetishisation of guns, heroic alcoholism
Patrick Swayze, Road House (1989)
He’s the one ‘good guy’ in a town throbbing with bellends, but he beats up everyone he has a problem with, so he is implicit in the glorification of violence. He also fails to alert the police to multiple crimes, and actually kills a man by stabbing him in the throat.
Most problematic moment: Saying “Oh yes you are,” and grabbing his girlfriend when she says she won’t flee with him from the hospital in which she works.
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, emotional detachment from death
Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee
Paul Hogan, Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Crocodile Dundee looks at your average B-flick and scoffs, “Call that problematic? This is problematic.” The dundering stereotype of an Aussie bushman somehow seduces a beautiful, liberal US journalist with his patriarchal machismo.
Most problematic moment: GrabbingMa trans woman’s crotch, shouting “a guy dressed up like a sheila!”, and then doing it again to another woman “just to check”.
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, casual racism, sadistic violence, defensive homophobia, token ethnic friend, no female friends
Bruce Willis, Die Hard (1988)
Boy, does McClane hate terrorists. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it leads him to kill a lot of goons with indifference that borders on enjoyment (“yippee ki-yay!”)
Most problematic moment: Pausing his quest to save his family to ogle a naked woman.
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, emotional detachment from death, token ethnic friend, blind patriotism, fetishisation of guns
Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
For the most part, Axel is an anti-authoritarian underdog who aims to avenge his friend’s murder, experiencing idiocy and racism along the way. Sure, he is so blasé about death he might have a screw loose, but it’s the single homophobic moment that really seals the character’s fate.
Most problematic moment: To get past a maître d’ and confront the villain, Foley pretends that he’s the villain’s lover and has contracted “herpes simplex 10”.
Guilty of: Emotional detachment from death, defensive homophobia
VERDICT: NOT FINE
Sylvester Stallone, Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
John Rambo didn’t write the terrible dialogue or create the appallingly one-dimensional Vietnamese woman with whom he falls in love. But he is a raging nationalist who is more than willing to mow down countless foreigners with borderline psychopathy.
Most problematic moment: His awful final line, “I want what every other guy who came over here and spills his guts wants: for our country to love us as much as we love it.”
Guilty of: Sadistic violence, emotional detachment from death, blind patriotism, fetishisation of guns
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando (1985)
John Matrix is a good dude who’s understandably vexed when villain Bennett kidnaps his daughter. And while it’s Bennett and fellow bad guy Sully who chuck misogynist slurs all over the shop, Arnie does get a bit excessive with his vengeance.
Most problematic moment: Sully calls Cindy a “f*ckin’ whore” for turning him down.
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, sadistic violence, emotional detachment from death, blind patriotism
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bloodsport (1988)
Frank Dux seems like a perfectly good guy, until you see his glassy-eyed indifference about inflicting and receiving pain. The masculinity he embodies is one in which it is desirable to seriously injure others despite the violence being absolutely unnecessary in the first place.
Most problematic moment: Anyone with respect for women would cringe when he says, “Looks like she’s mine” after gambling on an actual woman.
Guilty of: No female friends, fetishisation of guns
Harrison Ford, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Over and over again in The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo proves that he’s a flagrant misogynist. He calls Princess Leia “sweetheart” four times over the course of the film, despite the fact that she seems to actively want him to stay away from her, and on several occasions his staggering sense of entitlement causes her to ask that he stop touching her.
Most problematic moment: In a sea of similarly sexist misdemeanours, it’s probably the patronising line, “You could use a good kiss!”
Guilty of: Blatant sexism, no female friends