I mentioned in an earlier post how, as a child of the early 60s, my budding conception of adulthood and what it meant to be a "man" were largely informed by spy movies. This was so much the case that I could not picture myself as an adult without seeing myself in a crisp black suit with a cocktail glass in one hand and a beautiful woman on my arm.
In the current era, the idea of their child turning to such suave sociopaths--with all their casual misogyny and xenophobia--as role models would likely send most well meaning helicopter parents whirling out of their Birkenstocks. Indeed, it's a wonder that I didn't grow up to be an insufferable boor. I think it helped that foremost among my pantheon of secret agent idols was John Steed. Genteel, keen of wit, and shy of the gun, Steed also had the good fortune to be played by Patrick Macnee, who granted him a seasoned maturity that made him pop culture's coolest middle-aged man--while also giving him the winking good humor of a favorite uncle.
Still, as a kid growing up in a house full of strong women, I think for me Steed's greatest attribute was that he could make of a woman as brilliant and mighty as Emma Peel a trusted friend and respected colleague. For me, it is the profound depth of their partnership, their mutual admiration and regard, that makes Steed and Peel one of the greatest of all male-female screen pairings, and Patrick Macnee's John Steed a truly modern masculine archetype.
I'll be honest. Though I will sometimes eulogize them, I don't usually get too choked about celebrities dying. Though, in the case of Patrick Macnee, who died earlier today, I have to admit to feeling a little ache, a sense of something in the world being lost. It is also possible that what I'm feeling is a sense of a debt being owed. I feel that, despite some questionable influences along the way, I've done alright with this whole being a man thing; I can not only love a woman, but also like her; I respect the dignity of others, place a high value on the virtues of civility and kindness, and change my underwear on a strict schedule. For this I feel I should thank Patrick Macnee. He staked a claim on my imagination at a very young age, and so deserves some credit for making me the man I have become.