*Contains S1 Spoilers*
Minus all the incredible beat-downs, the positive relationships between the boys of Weak Hero is it’s high point. This positivity is seen most clearly via Gray, Ben, Eugene, Alex, Rowan, and Gerard; they’re a great example of men being traditionally masculine without the toxicity. By “masculine”, I’m talking in the stereotypical, cultural sense here as in possessing raw strength, being a provider/protector, being goal-oriented, and logical/stoic, sometimes being hot-headed and prone anger/impulsive behavior.
Toxic masculinity has become quite the buzzword nowadays, describing everything from rape culture to dudes who like big, loud trucks. One way in which masculinity is indeed toxic is the expectation that men be The Stoic: emotionless, always chill unless they’re expressing anger (can you spell G r a y Y e o n?)
Typically in entertainment (whether it’s books, webtoons, manga, movies, or television), romantic love brings out the tender side of man. But that’s not the case with Weak Hero. Notably, there’s an absence of women (and romance) in general here (shout-out to silver-haired glasses girl tho). In Weak Hero all the relationships between the characters are platonic. Yet, in the absence of romance, the author of Weak Hero shows us the beauty of male friendships and how they can change men for the better.
1. The bros use their strength to protect one another
No need for any damsels in distress, the boys of Weak Hero will cross the entire city on foot just to save one another. Interestingly, Ben ft. crew don’t really initiate many fights unless pushed and primarily throw hands to defend one another. In fact, Ben is so laid-back his reputation as the HBIC of Eunjang High is questioned more than once throughout the story.
Contrast Ben to Jimmy Bae, who picks fights with randos just because they’re wimps, or Wolf Keum who’ll throw hands because someone glanced his way for 3 seconds. Often, the strong use their strength to push around the weak. But not Ben ft. crew – they’re good guys who (mostly) only bust out those hands when their friends are in danger.
2. The bros aren’t afraid to get in their feelings
Gray gives one of his rare smiles around Ben (something that has everyone shooketh), and it’s to Ben that Gray opens up about his past after Ben repeatedly pursues a friendship with him.
Ben’s bffffffl Alex Go conceals his beat down by Jimmy simply because he doesn’t want Ben getting hurt, Gerard insists on fighting Jake Kim to prevent him from going after Ben (ironically, Jake targets Gerard knowing the only way to get Ben to fight for realz is if he curb stomps one of his amigos first).
In the absence of romance, it’s good, old-fashioned friendship that reveals the bros softer, more protective feelings. Furthermore, it isn’t to a woman that Gray opens up to manic pixie girl style, but to Ben. #bromance
3. The bros change others for the better
Teddy Jin is initially introduced as your typical bully until getting
coked out whooped by Gray and unceremoniously kicked out of Phillip Kim’s squad. He soon finds a cat and bonds with Eugene over it, then he’s inadvertently roped into helping Gray’s crew in a fight, sealing his face-heel-turn.
Teddy’s an interesting case – it’s clear he and Chad were homies yet the moment Teddy lost, he’s ostracized. On the flip side, neither Gray nor any of the others hold the fact Teddy got clobbered against him, but allow him to integrate into the crew, fight alongside them, and even hang out casually.
4. The bros pursue one another
Gray isn’t really interested in friendships at the story’s beginning, but that doesn’t dissuade Ben or Eugene from reaching out to him, repeatedly inviting him to things, lending him a hand, etc. even after getting rejected several times.
When Gray finally accepts their invitation to
Netflix and chill, the boys invite him to the rooftop. Except Gray doesn’t do rooftops; the boys never ask why, convince him to change his mind, or make fun of him. They simply find a different place to hang out.
5. The bros don’t knock one another for being weak
Phillip Kim gets curb stomped by Gray and loses all clout; predating that is Teddy Jin’s and Helmet’s smack-downs . Donald Na regularly pimp slaps those who don’t do what he wants (Wolf Keum).
Jared Sun is garbage and deserved to get whooped. Also, screw Bryce Oh – he deserved death. Often, those who aren’t strong are kicked out of their respective groups, or punished, simply for being weak. But that’s not the case with Ben ft. crew.
Eugene isn’t very strong (though he does have fleeting moments of bravery), yet the others keep him in the crew and hang out with him, even when he’s not doling out shuttle patch information. Alex and Gerard get whooped a number of times by various individuals, yet they’re never in danger of losing relationships over it because their friendship isn’t based on what one can do for the other, but just good, old-fashioned camaraderie.
All in all, Weak Hero is a great example of positive masculinity and positive male friendships in general. Boys will be boys, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing – rather, the bros of Weak Hero show us how boys can be both strong and sensitive; protective and caring, without the influence of women, or romantic love in general. The bros are a great example of what masculinity can look like: a man who uses his strength to protect those in need even at the expense of himself.
As the Bible says, “a man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Fortunately, the bros of Weak Hero have found that brother in one another.
I also rated the Bad Boy of Weak Hero (if you’re extra bored)
References: SEOPASS/RAZEN Weak Hero. Line Webtoon/Naver, 2019. Digital.