Society's Push to Die Hard

by furp97 on October 22, 2015 - 12:34pm

Raised in a patriarchal world of superficial advertisements and mass media, many fail to recognize that men are also negatively influenced and affected by societal norms and gender stereotypes, as opposed to only women. One of these individuals myself, it is not surprising that I had only noticed the underlined impact of Martin Chilton’s Die Hard (1988) film review for the Telegraph after viewing Jackson Katz’s film Tough Guise 2.0.

            Chilton’s review notes Die Hard’s greater worth when compared to the latest sequels of the series, discussing its main character John McClane, along with his role in the plot. Played by Bruce Willis, McClane is a New York police officer who saves the workers of a Los Angeles skyscraper from a group of German terrorists, simultaneously preventing the criminals from robbing millions in bonds. Among the rescued hostages is the cop’s own wife. Telegraph’s article glorifies the fit and armed protagonist, emphasizing his “swagger” and “charisma” while he plays hero (Chilton). Director John McTiernan is particularly applauded for depicting McClane’s skill, plan and situation in a more realistic and believable fashion than the recent films. However, the unfortunate actuality remains that such reviews simply reinforce society’s rigid and unreasonable expectations of men and their masculinity.

            For instance, the assumptions made about masculinity in Chilton’s article all enhance the notion that a real man worthy of respect is one who demonstrates the qualities of the “man box”. By idolizing Bruce Willis’ character, Chilton automatically displays that stoicism, physical strength, muscular appearance, control, and no signs of weakness characterize masculinity. The article admires the protagonist for being a hero; and thus, it further accentuates a man’s role and duty as a savior and a protector.  This is particularly represented when McClane saves his wife, the “damsel in distress,” as shown in the photo at the beginning of Telegraph’s article. Moreover, as implied by the review, the ideal image of a man is not only one who is able to think of solutions to resolve any problem, but one who is fit and strong. Describing McClane as “vest-wearing,” one can assume that men should also know how to handle weapons (i.e. guns), as well as protective gear. In this manner, “movies blur the line between what it means to be a man and using violence to prove you are a man” (Katz).

In fact, the assumptions highlighted by Chilton reflect a destructive form of masculinity. Great pressure is placed on males, who are culturally taught to take charge in times of crisis while adhering to firm personality and physical traits. At a young age, boys struggle to conform to societal norms, under close scrutinization for anything similar to femininity, which receives insolent opinions (Katz).  By praising Die Hard for making McClane’s heroism seem more feasible, Chilton is indirectly instructing his audience that any determined man should be able to adhere to the protagonist’s abilities. Male viewers exposed to the article may become increasingly depressed about their incapacities as powerful defenders than if the review had mentioned the movie was far-fetched. When searching for a target to channel repressed disappointment and anger, men often self-harm (i.e. suicide). Since reviews similar to Chilton’s justify violence as a go-to method to resolve issues, as opposed to a last resort, some men even become desensitized to violence and attack communities (Katz). They no longer believe in the use of violence for self-defense, but as a means of asserting power and influence. Some administer violence to earn respect through dominance while obtaining revenge for society’s pressures, which are often voiced by women who watch action films like Die Hard and read reviews like that in Telegraph. According to Katz’ Tough Guise 2.0, seventy-seven percent of aggravated assaults are made by men, and sixty-one of sixty-two shootings have been executed by men over the last thirty years.

Hence, it is time the world stopped justifying male violence with biological and historical reasons. Environmental factors play a predominant role in indoctrinating men that they must conform to particular appearances and behaviours. Culture yet remains the root of the problem, and social construct must change.


Chilton, Martin. “Die Hard, film review.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 27 Sep 2014. Web.  20 Oct 2015.

Tough Guise 2.0. Media Education Foundation, 2013. DVD.


To begin this response, I'll have to say that I responded to this article mainly because I appreciate the movie Die Hard and the subsequent sequels that followed. They are in line with other movies of the 1980's that display ridiculous scenes filled with a billion explosions, and of course examples of hyper-masculinity at its finest. Do I agree with many of the claims that are made user 'furp97'? Absolutely. I can recognize that it utilizes many of the clichés that have been seen in movies and other media formats for the past couple of decades, as well as the numerous gender stereotypes that it displays, such as the damsel in distress scenario. However, it does not stop me from enjoying it for what it is; a ridiculous action movie.‘’furp97’ states that many males become very confused and troubled by the idea of masculinity, due to the fear of being incapable of reproducing the results or feats seen media. I find it very disconcerting that these individuals result in the practice of self-harm because of these issues, as I had originally thought that most teens had become well aware with the concepts of stereotypes in the media. Similarly to gender, race has also been misrepresented in popular children's movies, such as Happy Feet or The Road to El Dorado that depict different racial stereotypes through its characters that can be very harmful to viewers. This is for the same reasons as given by 'furp97'; it inputs much pressure on individuals who associate with this culture to behave in a certain manner, or else they mocked by their peers with dubious statements such as "you act pretty white for a black dude". This thus places more pressure on these individuals to conform and act in a certain way in order to gain acceptance from their peers. These stereotypes are also harmful because it influences people to accept these stereotypes as fact and as representations of how people classified to a certain race or culture behave. It is very unfortunate to see so many people struggle with identity issues over the images presented in the media. I think I've also overvalued education's importance on bringing awareness on the issue. If education isn't enough, than how else can we spread the word about these harmful stereotypes on gender and race?

About the author