As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes a man chooses to risk death. There are of course many reasons for a man to choose to risk death. Maybe he chooses to risk death to save his family from a bear attack. Maybe he chooses to risk death to save Jews from genocide in Europe during WWII. Maybe he risks death at his underwater welding job every day.
Sometimes, though, a man doesn’t just risk death while still retaining a hope of living; sometimes he chooses to die and leaves himself no way out. Maybe he shoots himself because he has nothing to live for. Or maybe he throws himself in front of a bus so that his family will be able to collect on his life insurance policy. Perhaps he tackles an airplane hijacker knowing that he’s going to die anyway.
Part of the essence of masculinity is to go out and sacrifice one’s life for those we love, but masculinity is multifaceted and there are many ways to express it.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax the Destroyer has lost his wife and daughter to the killing spree of Ronan. In the above scene, Drax has chosen to call Ronan the Accuser, a very powerful Kree warrior, and invite him to Knowhere so that he can face the man who killed his wife and daughter. Unsurprisingly, it went very badly for Drax very quickly, and it also had very bad consequences for many other people. It would have been a suicide-by-Kree if not for Groot saving his life at the last second.
Rocket confronts him about his poor choice, and he admits his fault, that he had chosen to die because he had lost everything that he had lived for when his wife and child were killed. At that moment, he makes a new choice to live for his new friends. And once they are all together again and it is time to go get the Infinity Stone from Ronan, he stands up with Gamora and chooses to die with Peter Quill, his new friend.
And in the end, Drax ratifies that choice by choosing to join his life with Gamora and Quill in the final battle against Ronan by joining himself with them in holding the Infinity Stone. He knows that to touch the Infinity Stone likely means his death, but it also may mean life for anyone who may escape the reach of Ronan. This time, he chooses not the death of the lone man who lives for nothing and cares nothing for the consequences to others, but rather the death of a man who sacrifices everything so that others might live.
Instead of fighting alone in hopeless indifference to the sufferings of others, he reaches out in compassion to participate in the suffering of others and share his strength with them in their final moments. This is both the good life and the good death, a masculine death that is not the emptying of masculinity in meaningless death, but rather the fulfillment of the true masculine power to give life.
I hope that all men can live up to their potential in the end, reject the empty death of despair, and choose a life-giving death of compassionate action for the sake of those we love.