Masculinity is hard to define, since most of it is rooted in cultural ideas which change over time, rather than Biblical truths. However, generally we associate manliness with
trucks, beer, and guns working/being hard working, being logical/stoic as opposed to emotional, or being prone to outbursts of anger, being a provider and protector of the family unit, possessing raw physical strength, being handy with tools, etc. Toxic masculinity seems to describe when these masculine traits work to the detriment of men. For men, they’re often confined by these masculine ideas with the expectation they’ll live up to them, even if those things don’t come naturally, or it works to their disservice.
In fact, men are often shamed for expressing emotions besides anger, or made out to be weak for doing traditionally feminine tasks (gardening, caring for children, etc.) even though objectively nothing makes those tasks or emotions feminine and again ideas of masculinity have changed over the years. Even in the confines of romantic relationships where men are supposedly allowed to be tender, society will call men who outwardly display their affection whipped.
In fiction then we typically only see a man’s tender, more protective side via romance, which doesn’t hold true for women. The manwha Weak Hero balks at that idea, something I rambled about already as we see the boys of Weak Hero defy gender stereotypes by opening up to one another and acknowledging one another’s weaknesses whilst beating the life out of others. Still, I wanted to talk specifically about the positive masculinity between
Saint Stephen Ahn and Gray Yeon.
If ever there was a quote that described Gray Yeon, the verse, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” comes to mind.
At least everything is meaningless until Gray meets Stephen Ahn.
Stephen is just built different. Even the kids in his class notice.
But Gray and Stephen are two sides of the same coin. Gray is wholly focused on his studies despite finding little joy in them (or anything); he lives with no clear purpose or direction in life
(same), no goals nor desires, just merely existing.
Interestingly, Stephen doesn’t seem motivated by any strong goals or desires either besides
being a saint keeping others happy.
For Gray, life is serious business – the only thing that matters is learning. For Stephen, life is a playground meant to be enjoyed and nothing is taken too seriously.
Still, it’s no surprise Stephen noticed Gray studying mindlessly – in Gray’s meaningless existence, he likely saw a darker, more sober reflection of himself.
The two soon become
bros befor hoes amigos, finding joy in their relationship with one another (and video games).
Alas, nothing good last forever!
A rogue Bryce Oh appears, or rather Saint Stephen takes Bryce under the shadow of his wing after noticing him solo. Bryce, the physical embodiment of everything Stephen isn’t: selfish, insecure, and cruel without reason. In contrast, Stephen’s sacrificial behavior makes others think of Jesus dying on the cross for them (lol).
This sacrificial love is most prominent towards Gray. After Bryce steal Gray’s home work for LOLz Stephen gives Gray his own, taking a beating from the trash teacher on his behalf and uttering what seems to be a prophetic statement.
Of course, Bryce’s petty behavior only escalates from there partially egged on by the validation he so desperately craves and gets from Oswald Yang, who’s wealthy and tough. We see some of Bryce’s resentment, and the reason why he turns on Stephen, most clearly when Bryce notices how the girls don’t pay any attention to him but only Stephen and Gray. Gray at least is good at something – he’s very smart, one of the top of his class. But in Bryce’s eyes Stephen is on the same level as him and not deserving of validation either. Coupled with his insecurities, it didn’t take much for Bryce’s ego to get scarred.
Oswald Tang mini HBIC of class begins bullying Stephen after Bryce spreads rumours about him wanting to throw hands, albeit bully seems almost too soft of a term, – really, they’re like torturing him. Consequently, Stephen ensures Oswald Yang’s attention remains on him and not the frail Gray by not putting up a fight. Given Bryce was “friends” with Stephen and turned on him violently as soon as his feelings got hurt (talk about toxic masculinity lol), it’s not outside the realm of possibility to believe the same could happen to Gray.
Side Note: There’s a slight implication in-text that Stephen probably could’ve adequately defended himself.
Trash Bryce was weak af and there’s little evidence Oswald was like Wolf Keum/Jimmy Bae level strong – even his classmates seem surprised Oswald is suddenly “acting up”. Not only does Stephen get clobbered several times yet recovers quickly, we see him playing basketball and mentioning walking for exercise, giving the impression he’s in decent shape and relatively strong. Notably, Stephen never even tries to defend himself.
We see this lack of trying more metaphorically in Stephen’s ability to become the HBIC of class. If he tries, he gets the top spot. But he doesn’t (except to woo Gray). Applying this logic to his physical prowess, it’s reasonable to say had Stephen tried to defend himself, he likely would’ve been able to hold his own, or at least become enough of a hassle bullying him would be too much work.
Of course, Stephen doesn’t try solely to ensure Oswald’s attention remain on him.
Dumpsterwald Oswald tells Stephen if he gets the lowest grade in class, he’ll lay off. Whether that’s true or not, IDK. Nevertheless, Stephen rises to the top for the sake of Gray. This sacrifice culminates in him “falling” off the roof of a building. Whether pushed intentionally or not, seems somewhat irrelevant (though it does stand even Trashwald and his goons were genuinely shocked, so they likely didn’t actually mean for Stephen to fall).
Gray later visits Stephen at the hospital and there we see probably the most emotion he’s ever displayed aside from when he went ham on my boi Wolf.
Just as Gray saw light in Stephen and was changed by it, did Stephen see a light in Gray and was drawn to that? Or was Stephen merely alone, even until the very end, and seeking some sort of companionship as a result of that solitude?
Alas! We’ll likely never know. Stephen (if he’s still alive) was brain dead and unlikely to ever recover. Gray has a new harem of True Companions.
Weak Hero has many good examples of positive masculinity (it has toxic examples too lmao), but it displays the beauty of male friendships and how men can bring the best out of one another, rather than the worst. Stephen exemplifies the very best version of masculinity, or as my favorite book says,“[g]reater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).
References: SEOPASS/RAZEN Weak Hero. Line Webtoon/Naver, 2019. Digital.