‘Reacher’: Women want what he has, and not just the meatloaf

You may have felt the shaking: a beast with a cat has entered TV Land and his name is Reacher. Season 1 of the Amazon series that bears its name was a huge hit when it launched in early 2022, and season 2, which concludes on January 19, looks to be even bigger, becoming Prime’s number one title Video worldwide in its debut weekend. . And the series is crushing it critically the same way Reacher crushes a villain’s skull. As of early January, the new season had a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an 84 percent audience score. When do critics ever rate a muscular action show above the audience?

Everyone loves this “Reacher”.

And by all, the reviews seem to suggest, that primarily means all men.

A review in Paste Magazine offered this concise summary: “I’m not saying it’s just for guys, but I think we’re in safe territory in saying it’s mostly for boys.” And what guys seem to like is a minimum of emotions and maximum punches, delivered by a mountain of muscles: a former army investigator turned peripatetic crime solver, who wastes no time racking his brains. huge and fleshy hands for insignificant details such as having a fixed address or even a change of clothes.

But here’s the thing about “Reacher”: women watch it, too. Sure, 58 percent of Season 1 viewers were men, according to Nielsen. Still, that leaves a fairly large number of people who aren’t. The common wisdom when it comes to Jack Reacher’s popularity is that men want to be him and women want to be with him. But I would dare say that some women also want to be him. Or at least they want some freedom from him.

Born to writer Lee Child, Jack Reacher has been the anchor, since 1997, of a series of best-selling novels that have long had a strong female readership: estimated in 2018 by his publisher, Penguin Random House, at around 60 percent. One of his biggest defenders is a woman, New York Times critic Janet Maslin. I have read about 20 of those novels, most in their natural habitats (flights, vacation rentals), and I am proud to share a fandom with the British writer Antonia Fraser, who in a letter to The Guardian in 2022 wrote: “The idea “The fact that there is a new Jack Reacher to read at night makes the whole day go by happily.”

Now, the Amazon show, starring Alan Ritchson, finally offers a worthy film adaptation. This is good news after the two 2010s films, which were ridiculed for casting Tom Cruise as a guy described in a book as having “an abdomen like a cobblestone city street, and a chest like a suit of armor.” the NFL, and biceps like basketballs and subcutaneous fat like a tissue.” Ritchson not only meets the physical requirements, which are so crucial to the essence of the character that they are non-negotiable, but he also has a way with deadpan humor and is as light as a human the size of an industrial refrigerator can be. .

Reacher appeals to men in general and fathers in particular because, as NPR television critic Eric Deggans writes, he is “a character free of all the pressures and responsibilities that many fathers face every day”; A fairly representative critical evaluation, based on the many reviews I have read. “He has no wife, no stable romantic partner, no children, no family,” Deggans continues, “not even a mortgage, rent payment, or full-time job.”

But I suspect many moms would also welcome the opportunity to be free of those demands. (And they’re more likely to feel guilty than dads for even considering that fantasy.) Reacher, who travels the country with nothing more than a toothbrush, an ATM card, and the clothes on his back, has no responsibilities other than those he sets for himself. I’m not a mother, but I have a spouse, an office job, and bills to pay, and I often find myself thinking, “I’ll have what he has.”

Consider the benefits: When Reacher needs a change of clothes, he just buys something cheap wherever he is. (Miraculously, he always finds his size, which appears to be InfinityXL, at local thrift or surplus stores.) In the first episode of this season, he spends $22 on a new outfit. Effortlessly achieving a complete outfit on a double-figure budget is living the dream.

Their diet is also simple. For breakfast, there is always bacon and eggs. Otherwise, it’s a cheeseburger and fries, and he always eats it all with great relish. Forgive me for thinking this sounds more satisfying, if only for a day, than choosing a “girls dinner,” especially since your eating habits miraculously translate into muscle instead of fat.

Perhaps the most enviable thing about Reacher from a woman’s perspective is that he is never afraid. Dark alleys and threatening strangers don’t faze him, and what woman doesn’t envy that confidence? Often, while silently and helplessly irritated as some idiot harasses a woman in public, I have fantasized about walking up to him and, with just one glare, reducing him to a quivering puddle of fear.

Reacher can do that. And if that’s not enough, he can beat you into oblivion. For some of us, the transference is real.

It’s undeniable that Reacher can come close to being a lonely sociopath (although he tends to come back rather than initiate violence, or at least strike out preemptively). But Child has cleverly ensured that while Reacher wanders alone, he rarely operates alone, forcing his hero to act like a human and giving women other indirect means of connecting with him. Season 2 is very much a team story, as Reacher reunites with members of his Army investigations unit, including Frances Neagley (Maria Sten). Her phobia of being touched could be one of the reasons why her relationship with Reacher is successfully platonic; They have the kind of committed friendship that you rarely see women have with straight men in books or on screen, something I find incredibly refreshing.

Reacher is also capable of being an attentive and thoughtful lover. In season 1, he works with two local police officers, played by Willa Fitzgerald and Malcolm Goodwin; You won’t be able to guess who he sleeps with. In season 2, he and his former Army colleague Karla Dixon (Serinda Swan) consummate an attraction that was forbidden when he was his boss. In both cases, as usual, he respectfully avoids a complicated romantic entanglement, while providing some highly sought-after between-the-sheets action.

This side of the flesh has been tenderized for short but meaningful adventures. Believe it or not, many women want them too.

Because of course, there are fans who do, In fact, I want to be with Reacher. That seems fine to me. For them, it is worth noting that in one novel he is described so well in bed that “The ground shook. The hall door creaked and closed. I’ll hazard a guess that if anything remotely like that scene ever appears in a future season of “Reacher,” it might as well be some weird thing that brings together men and women, fathers and mothers, straight and gay, in one big bang. of happy laughter.

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