Photo Credit: Jonathan Wenk
All it takes is a few good men, and 2009 saw a number of movies featuring supportive husbands with ambitious wives. You might say they were enablers in the best sense, validating and embracing their partners' goals. Where did we see this trend?
• Julie & Julia: This film features not one but two supportive husbands, whose efforts in their respective decades made their wives' successes a priority. Julia Child (played by Oscar-bound Meryl Streep) had an adoring husband (Stanley Tucci) with whom she traveled the world. When she enrolled in culinary classes at Le Cordon Bleu in 1950, he supported her, even in an era when it was a highly unusual path for a woman. And Child's modern-day admirer, the novice chef played by Amy Adams, was married to a guy, played by Chris Messina, who cheered her on (almost always, but hey, everyone's human) as she intrepidly blogged about Child's recipes.
• Young Victoria: At 18, the future Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt) was being pushed around by scheming adults who wanted access to her inherited power, and hoped to marry her off to someone who would further their scheming. But she recognized one suitor, the future Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), as a man with progressive social ideals for her people, a helpmate in navigating the Byzantine machinations circling the throne. Victoria already had a lap dog, a King Charles spaniel, but what she sought – and got – was a canny man capable of being an equal in marriage during her reign as Queen of England.
• The Blind Side: Because her husband, Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), was so supportive, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) was able to realize her potential as a powerhouse mentor and mom. Sure, Sean shook his head in amazement when she made him stop the car to inquire after a vulnerable African-American student walking the freezing streets in shorts. But Sean didn't resist when she made up a bed for their new guest -- he understood the fulfillment she felt in helping someone. As a spouse, his stabilizing presence helped Leigh Anne focus as she habitually took on ambitious challenges.
What's significant about the leading men in these films? Perhaps movies are reflecting the reality that so many women of my generation experience -- at least those of us who thrive thanks to mates who say, "I want to see you be happy," and then help us pursue our dreams.
In Hollywood, what successful actresses like Streep and Bullock clearly seek are story arcs where the lead female characters (and their needs) further the action -- which is, really, the definition of a starring role. Kudos to the leading ladies and producers who know these stories shouldn't sacrifice the complexity of the male characters. Here's hoping more scripts champion supportive husbands!
Which supportive male characters in films and TV do you applaud? Chime in below!