In the era of woke Hollywood and woke everything else, it’s hard to find good entertainment options. As you will soon hear in Lives of the Luminaries, once the woke virus infects something, that thing ceases to perform its natural function and is instead only interested in reproducing woke ideology. It’s for this reason that so many classic series have lost their souls. For example, the original Star Wars trilogy was a great coming of age/hero’s journey story, but it deteriorated and has become avowedly anti-masculine in its latest iteration. What self-respecting man would choose to spend time on such nonsense?
As this year has shown, good entertainment is essential. If you’re in the unfortunate position of being in a lockdown country, you don’t want to be trapped with nothing to do except watch garbage that will poison your mind. Entertainment has more influence on our character than we think. It isn’t just an expression of ourselves, but its tropes and themes can influence our perception of the world and thus, our actions. I think playing Super Mario World when I was in Kindergarten might have swelled an already-existing spirit of adventure within me.
We all know the virtues of classical fiction like Homer, but what about some more modern series, things you watch as well as read?
1. The Rocky Franchise
With the exception of Rocky V, the franchise has been well-received for a good reason. Rocky Balboa is a great example of a character with masculine virtue. You of course already know the story, so I need not waste too much time explaining it. He goes from the bottom to the top through the power of his fists and his character. It is a determined character. It is a resourceful character. It is a character that sometimes lacks motivation, but ultimately finds it when the challenge calls for it, coming through in the end. Moreover, when Rocky loses everything in the fifth movie, which was not received well by the audience, you saw him respond in the sixth. He can’t find a fortune in the way that he used to, but he can utilize his experiences to create a celebrity status that will allow him to make a comfortable, if not quite wealthy, living.
The good thing about the Rocky series is that it never loses its soul. When the sixth movie, Rocky Balboa, was announced, I was skeptical, thinking it an attempt by Sylvester Stallone to milk an old franchise as an effort at a late career revival. I was pleasantly surprised. Moreover, Creed I and II, despite Rocky Balboa no longer being a fighter, carries on the spirit of its predecessors. They aren’t lame or woke repeats. We see Rocky’s resourcefulness and virtue on display in passing on what he’s learned to the next generation, while Adonis Creed does his best to live up to his father’s example and not make due with the laurels of his name – a true Homeric virtue if there ever was one.
Spending a day watching all the Rocky movies, or one periodically, will always charge you.
2. Hajime no Ippo
I’ve reviewed this here earlier this year, so go check that out for more in-depth information. Like the Rocky franchise, Hajime no Ippo is a boxing series. It began in 1989 and is still ongoing. The title character is a great example of how physical fitness and learning to fight can increase self-confidence and the respect due to a man. Ippo goes from a bullied boy into the national champion of his country, with the masculine virtues of fortitude and courage. The charm about Ippo – and why the fans in the series adore him – is that he isn’t super-talented at his sport. He wins his matches because of the power of his punches and muscles and his ability to take hits. People can envision themselves as him.
Unfortunately, he’s still a socially awkward dork, but his journey is an inspiring and motivating story all the same. His relationship with his “girlfriend” (you’ll see what I mean), Kumi, is also a good illustration of relationships. She is a nurturer (which goes in line with her occupation as a nurse), and that’s always welcome, but her constant doubts and nagging about his boxing career, even if it comes from good intentions, is frustrating. Her doubting and undermining his true character is the kind of warning sign that Louis XIV advised men to avoid. It’s the age-old trope of a woman trying to change her man, but his yielding to her subsequently makes him less attractive to her because he’s no longer the man she fell in love with. That is not the path to a “homophrosyne” (like-minded) relationship of the type seen between Odysseus and Penelope – love in its perfect form.
I await to see what happens between them when Ippo inevitably comes out of retirement. Will she still support him as she does now, will she leave him, or will he succumb and ultimately lose her respect?
Hajime no Ippo also has a whole host of memorable and funny supporting characters. Mamoru Takamura, the genius world champion, is hilarious but also not quite the example of manliness you would want to emulate. His virtues shine, but so do his vices.
Meanwhile, there’s also the character of Takeshi Sendo, who is set to challenge the featherweight World Champion and main antagonist of the series. Sendo, you will see, is the most masculine character in the series, trusting to his strength and fighting for the right cause, always improving his character along the way. He embodies many of the classical masculine virtues (fortitude and temperance), even if he doesn’t seem to on the surface.
Take a look at this series. The anime has some great fights. The manga has been going since 1989 for a reason.
3. Ghost in the Shell
Also originally released in 1989, Masamune Shirow’s original Ghost in the Shell manga has been adapted and reimagined in multiple iterations from movies to television series to new manga and comics. When the series’ protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, hit screens in the 1995 movie, the series’ popularity grew.
This series isn’t a personification of some of the classical masculine virtues. Indeed, the presence of customizable prosthetic bodies blurs such virtues.
What does make Ghost in the Shell worth it is precisely that. Mostly taking place just ten years from now (though some iterations of the series take place in 2027 or other years), it is a good predictor of a high-tech future, with most people having cyberbrains. If you think the proliferation of mobile devices has led to bad outcomes, with people increasingly detached from reality, ask yourself what happens if those devices and algorithms start to interface directly with the brain? What happens when humanity itself is blurred?
These are some of the questions that Ghost in the Shell tries to explore and predict. Some of the predictions since 1989 have held up, though the world of Ghost in the Shell is far from as hysterical as ours. It didn’t anticipate the level to which its big tech companies would try to control the thoughts and beliefs of their population.
Concepts like the Stand Alone Complex were profiled in Stumped. That phenomena, from the series of the same name, was right in its early 2000’s prediction, with our waves of social media panics and copycats without any particular original.
Ghost in the Shell is worth getting into because of how it will force you to think about the future of human relationships. It pays to be prepared. Wisdom is a classical virtue.
It’s also worth getting into because of the action and mystery aspects of the series (which often deals with corrupt government actors – Ghost in the Shell in some ways predicted the current wave of populism). You can watch the acclaimed 1995 movie right here.
4. The First Churchills
This is an old series, originally airing in 1969, which documents the life of the Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. The series, based on his descendant Winston Churchill’s famous biography, details the long rise, the glory, the fall, and the late-stage rebirth of the Duke. His relationship with his wife, Sarah, and how important it was to his life and career, is also detailed in depth. The two are shown to have the homophrosyne ideal between them, but in the show, we see how important a man’s choice of wife can be in both his rise and his fall, as Sarah’s temper and inability to control herself (unlike her husband’s famous patience) costs him in the later episodes. Susan Hampshire, who stars as Sarah, was widely praised for her performance.
It’s a revealing series about power dynamics, relationships, and fortitude as you see John Churchill rise from obscurity to the pinnacle of society. The series is usually historically accurate as well, so you may be more inspired by it then other, fictitious series. It’s not as flashy as the other series on this particular list, but its examination of real-life relationships and virtues that make or break a man is superior to any of them.
5. Dragon Ball
Arguably the best long-running meta-series of modern times, despite some shaky installments (like parts of the Dragon Ball Super manga and Dragon Ball GT), Akira Toriyama’s classic changed its industry and made it explode in America. Most of us under the age of 40 grew up watching it.
It stuck with us for a reason. Dragon Ball begins with Goku as a naive kid, who challenges himself to trials on the adventures he has with his friends. He grows stronger all the while keeping the good parts of his earlier character. He may be naive (which is never a good thing), but hubris is thus never a part of his character (which is an even worse thing).
Through it all, we see how Goku becomes a father and then a grandfather, changes the people around him for the better, and always rises to the challenge, no matter what it is. His virtues inspire the viewer to get stronger and rise to the occasion in the same way, as seen with my recent post about his Ultra Instinct transformation. The series has a colorful cast of characters down to the lowest-rung of the supporters, though some of the villains can be generic.
I’ve written about it a lot here for a reason. There’s arguably no more invigorating series in terms of pure adrenaline – the clarion call to get off your ass and be like a Saiyan, fictitious or not. Dragon Ball has stood the test of time for over 30 years for a reason.