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The Rise of a Kindhearted Comedy Hero: The Anti-Toxic Masculinity Message of Brendan Fraser Films

Throughout Brendan Fraser’s career, he has played a plethora of unique, layered characters who explore the importance of not being afraid to display your emotions, something that is often seen to not be a masculine trait. This idea of regulating emotion and what traits men are able to possess creates a toxic atmosphere for men who are often told they should not cry or represent their emotions in any physical way. These characters represent that men can be joyful, emotionally conscious, and sensitive, while also representing their masculine identity instead of painting those qualities as fighting against their masculinity.

There is an underlying focus on toxic masculinity and actively combating this throughout the films of Brendan Fraser, which often utilize the kindhearted himbo trope, creating a new ideal focused on mutual respect and understanding.

Films such as George of the Jungle, Blast From the Past, Encino Man, and many more throughout Brendan Fraser’s career feature sweet ‘Fish Out of Water’ characters, and in some cases, these characters are shown in direct contrast to male characters focused more on maintaining and showcasing their masculinity to the extent of not being able express any traits that have been deemed too feminine.

What sets apart the himbo ideal brought to the forefront with Brendan Fraser’s 90s roles from how the ideal fantasy man had been represented in film is that this himbo ideal focuses on a fantasy of equally emotional and physical attraction rather than a male aspirational power fantasy. The overly masculine hero commonly viewed as the ideal romantic man is more often aimed towards other men, showcasing the importance of masculine features, and creating distance from emotional traits often seen as too feminine.

Brendan Fraser also embodies some traits of the classic screwball comedy hero, and the importance of the female characters in these films also reflect similar screwball tropes.

Cartoons Brought to Life: Brendan Fraser in George of the Jungle (1997) and Dudley Do-Right (1999)

Brendan Fraser in Dudley Do-Right (1999) & George of the Jungle (1997)

George of the Jungle is a 1997 adaptation of the 1960s cartoon of the same name, which follows the expedition of Ursula Stanhope (Leslie Mann) into the fictional Bukuvu region of Africa. Her fiancé, Lyle Van de Groot (Thomas Hayden Church) follows her, but his only hope is to capture the ‘White Ape’ who resides in the mountains in an effort to exploit the discovery for money. Ursula is rescued by George (Brendan Fraser), a man who grew up in the Bukuvu raised by a knowledgeable and talkative ape named Ape (John Cleese).

From the first moment, Ursula on her expedition is kind to everyone and happy—until she sees her fiancé—establishing early on that she might be trapped in a relationship she does not want. And from these first moments, Lyle is depicted as someone who cares only about himself and thinks he is the strongest and smartest person in the group, when really, he is the most out-of-touch and is often made fun of by his companions. Lyle tries to take Ursula away from her adventure and when she responds to say that this trip to see the apes is the reason she came, he cuts her off and acts like him allowing her expectation to continue is him doing something for her, when all he did was try to take her away from her dream.

When George rescues Ursula, he treats her with respect and wants to know her name. This begins to show him as the opposite of Ursula’s fiancé, Lyle Van de Groot. Brendan Fraser’s himbo persona comes to life in this film and is the perfect fit for George. Her interest in George comes through when she stops saying fiancé and changes it to “this guy I was with”. Ursula says she needs to get back to her group and though at first George is sad—and these emotions are allowed to be freely expressed—he does not hesitate to help Ursula. He calls his dog, which is really an elephant, to help them on their search, and away they go. Feelings bloom between the pair through his eagerness to assist her and general respect of her. During their elephant ride, it doesn’t take long for Ursula to enjoy herself, while getting back to her controlling fiancé has left her mind.

Brendan Fraser in Dudley Do-Right (1999) & George of the Jungle (1997) with Leslie Mann

Lyle’s personality as a guy who thinks he is the epitome of masculinity—waving guns around and acting like people from Africa don’t know what cameras are—is the villain. He is the man to be left behind in pursuit of your dreams and maybe a life partner with sensitivity and joy… someone like Brendan Fraser’s George.

George might be a little dumb, in an endearing way that suggests he would never be manipulative or rude because he views the world in a simple and open manner. Brendan Fraser plays this innocence and heart especially well. This ‘fish out of water’ archetype allows for explorations of joy. George is amazed by everything he comes across in this new world—things we take for granted—and he can find delight in tiny moments. In one especially memorable scene, George tries coffee for the first time, but he doesn’t know how it works, so he just eats scoops of coffee grounds. He darts around the room, experiencing caffeine for the first time with a huge smile.

He smiles and enjoys himself and never views this as something that makes him any less of a man. In one scene, he wears a lei of purple flowers around his neck and puts another flower in his long, flowing hair. His response when his talking Ape brother looks at him is to say, “George just feel like looking a little special today, that all”. And yes. That’s all. Men are allowed to want to look a little special with no one doubting their identity as a man. This is a sweet moment where the audience feels how much Ursula’s presence is affecting George. He is falling in love and that made him want to showcase his internal happiness in an external and charming way.

The relationship between Ursula and George is reminiscent of a classic screwball comedy, especially in its depiction of Ursula as an emotionally strong character who comes from a different social class than George but does not look down on him for this. She happily wants to know all about his life and how things work where he is from while also wanting to introduce him to the world. George and Ursula are both given the chance to be emotional and kindhearted, showcasing George as a fantasy aimed at women focusing on his kind and sweet personality without separating that from him being able to be strong and attractive. Other films aimed at women have showcased their fantasy ideal men as the male power fantasy men think women want.

George of the Jungle also combats the traits of toxic masculinity in a scene which comes about as George is trying to adjust to Ursula’s world in the big city. He came from the jungle with only what he refers to as a butt flap, so he needs clothes to wear. While in Ursula’s house, he gets dressed in one of her dresses and puts a scrunchie in his hair.

Brendan Fraser in Dudley Do-Right (1999) & George of the Jungle (1997)

George does not feel uncomfortable having to wear clothes commonly viewed as feminine. The narration specifically comments on the idea of gender roles being reflected in which clothes are aimed at men and women with the line, “Being of a conservative mind regarding gender roles, Ursula Stanhope wasted no time in taking George of the Jungle to a fine haberdasher”. This narration never suggests that George feels uncomfortable in the clothes, showcasing how masculine vs. feminine clothing expression is a social construct and not something that would insert into George’s thought process. Throughout George’s introduction to city life, Brendan Fraser always captures the wide-eyed wonder of exploring a new place for the first time. This dumbstruck joy becomes a staple in Brendan Fraser’s career, helping to build a modern kindhearted comedy hero.

George also does not understand the problem with nudity in our society. He introduces himself to one of Ursula’s friends while completely naked. He smiles and does not spend any time worrying about his state of undress, while Ursula finds different objects like a book and frying pan to cover the area usually covered with his ‘butt flap’. The embarrassment is easily visible on her face, yet George is not privy to this obsession with nudity being inappropriate and inherently seen as sexual.

In 1999, Brendan Fraser explored that dim-witted but jovial and kind combination in another adaptation of a 1960s cartoon with Dudley Do-Right. Like George of the Jungle, this film included many scenes of smacking into things combined with caring, heartfelt moments representing Dudley as another character given the chance to show respect for others while never having to hide how much he cares.

Dudley’s childhood sweetheart Nell (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes home after getting degrees from Harvard and Yale, while Dudley has trouble saying he loves her as he gets hit by loose floorboards, has a moose head fall onto him, and finally gets his love confession out with the moose covering his head completely.

Throughout the film, Dudley constantly falls, gets smacked by various objects, and responds to statements with sometimes too literal interpretations showing his lack of smarts, but he always maintains a positive attitude no matter how wrong he is in his interpretations.

Throughout the film, Dudley demonstrates his love for Nell and his utter devotion to her by being a kind, sweet-natured, yet silly man who never gives up on her and the town he vows to protect from the villainous Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina). The film utilizes Brendan Fraser’s well-established himbo persona to bring another kindhearted character to life with his charming and welcoming performance.

Dudley Do-Right is the hero personified, always the one to do the morally right thing, and Brendan Fraser works wonders in the role, making him likable no matter how many times he rides a horse backwards or falls trying to sit in chairs.

Characters Out of Time: Brendan Fraser in Encino Man, Blast from the Past, and Doom Patrol

Blast from the Past (1999), Doom Patrol (2019 – Present), & Encino Man (1992)

The ‘Fish out of water’ trope appears throughout Brendan Fraser’s career, sometimes in the form of coming from a location with different cultural norms, but in other films, his characters feel out of time.

Encino Man follows two high school outcasts Dave (Sean Astin) and Stoney (Pauly Shore) who uncover a caveman (Brendan Fraser) encased in a block of ice when digging a hole for a pool.

Once thawed, the caveman finds himself in an entirely different world, not understanding much of anything. This leaves him as something of a blank slate for his two friends. Dave wants to use Link to become popular, while Stoney is more concerned with simply being Link’s friend.

Throughout the film, Link screams and grunts at what he does not understand, and Dave and Stoney help him by giving him a bath, new clothes, and an education of the modern world.

A major focus of Encino Man is brought to attention when Dave says, “We gotta teach him to be normal” but Stoney disagrees. He understands that normal isn’t something to strive for, and throughout the film, Link proves that not caring what other people think or trying to be popular are the very attributes that make him memorable. Robyn (Megan Ward), the girl of Dave’s dreams, likes Link because he’s “not afraid of being himself or having fun”. Link’s carefree and joyful attitude is presented in contrast to the calculated and mean personalities of the more popular students at Encino High School.

The joy Link sees in everything, from correctly saying his friend’s names to going to an amusement park, is infectious. His happiness is clearly visible and his giggles, laughs, and grunts of approval paint a clear picture of the accepting and friendly caveman. When Stoney and Dave fight near the end of the film, Link pulls them apart and reminds them they are family. The three friends all hug each other and we know this found family will last. With Link being frozen for so long, his personality and attitude towards life are not colored by the fear of embarrassment found in modern communication.

Stoney vibes with Link, which leads to some of the most memorable moments coming when the two explore the world together. Stoney takes Link to a convenience store to “wheeze the juice”—drinking straight from the nozzle of an ICEE machine— and he also takes him to MegaMountain, an amusement park where they hang out and go on rides together. When their adventure comes to an end, Link now speaks in slang similar to Stoney. This upsets Dave and reinforces that he views Link less as a friend and more as a means to achieve popularity, but this fades away over time after remembering how much Stoney means to him.

Brendan Fraser in Encino Man (1992)

In a particularly moving scene, Stoney and Dave find Link sitting inside a museum exhibit on cavemen. He’s looking at the diorama of people from his time. He cries as he remembers his own family. Stoney comforts Link and reminds him that he isn’t alone by saying, “We’re your new family”. Link appreciates this sentiment and the three all huddle into a sweet hug. This moment also points against the toxic nature of the popular students in the film who view expressing emotions as something that makes Dave and Stoney geeks, when really it shows that these guys on the outskirts are friendly and welcoming.

Encino Man is a fun adventure exploring how a caveman would fit into the modern day of the early 1990s. Brendan Fraser plays the part with heart, joy, and just enough confusion. The film’s focus on setting Link apart because he did not grow up in a world focused on popularity allows him to be in juxtaposition with the rude popular kids who look down on anyone different. Link helps the outcasts Dave and Stoney remember and accept that they are better off being friendly and open than being popular for the sake of being popular.

In Blast from the Past, this disconnect with the modern world comes from living in a fallout shelter, distanced from the ever-changing world on the surface.

Blast from the Past follows Adam Webber (Brendan Fraser), who spent all 35 years of his life living in a fallout shelter with his parents Calvin (Christopher Walken) and Helen (Sissy Spacek), who thought the crash of a fighter jet was a nuclear attack. Calvin built the shelter in 1962, preparing for the worst. Through his life so far, Adam has only experienced popular culture that existed before that year, and his mannerisms reflect the culture of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The film explores Adam’s excitement learning about the world and his naivety, which work together to build a unique character with the best qualities of the past, but excited and open to learning about the best aspects of the present. Adam embodies the traits of someone from the 50s but does not bring with him the more negative qualities of that time period. He makes references that are shocking or strange to the modern people he meets, but he never wishes to be demeaning or derogatory. He is quick to accept new people, which both shows the naïve aspect of his personality as well as the caring and sweet side.

Blast from the Past comments on the values of the 50s from the beginning when Helen is described as “housewife, likes to cook, pregnant” which is followed by one of the women in a group saying, “normal then” and another woman responds with, “I wouldn’t go that far.” This conversation points out what was considered normal in society at the time and helps show how Adam does not have exactly this mindset.

His parents were on the outskirts of society, which shows why his 1950s/60s inspired personality does not reflect the more sexist views of the era, even if their marriage checked off some of the boxes to be considered normal. The opening credits of Blast from the Past feature the Perry Como version of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”. This song works to capture the time period of the film, while also foreshadowing the main character’s personality. Throughout the film, Adam always has a positive outlook on everything and his presence in the modern world brings joy to everyone he meets.

When we first see Adam grown up and almost ready for his adventure outside the bunker, he immediately comes across as constantly delighted and with impeccable manners and with a vocabulary filled with things like “Oh boy!” and “These are really swell” foreshadowing the differences he will experience once he ventures outside of his sheltered life into the late 1990s.

Like some of Brendan Fraser’s other characters, Adam also comes across as not being that smart because he is not well-versed in modern lingo and social experiences. Adam has only ever been around his parents, and his birthday wish near the start of the film is to meet a girl. He is giddy like a teenager at this prospect, even though he is 35 years old. This creates a unique blend of emotions producing a memorable performance and distinctive character.

Alicia Silverstone and Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past (1999)

Blast from the Past comments on 1950s/60s culture as well as the culture being established in the 90s in equal measure. Neither decade is made more of a joke than the other, and through a montage of the years passing as they are in the bunker, each decade in between is given its own dose of satirizing.

The pure joy Adam expresses when he sees the sky is infectious and demonstrates the special way he views the world, and how this separates him from the traditional modern man. Blast from the Past explores the fantasy elements that come with meeting someone who hasn’t been around for a long time, so he has no chance of being like the other people you might have dated.

Adam is presented as the opposite of Eve’s ex-boyfriend Cliff (Nathan Fillion) who is shallow and demeaning to her. Eve tells Adam that she often ends up with shallow guys and throughout the film, Adam has been set up as someone who wants everyone to be as happy as he is by sharing his infectious joy at every chance he has. When Adam rides the bus, he marvels at public transportation and comments on the journey throughout his short ride.

Adam, like George is to Lyle, is the direct contrast to Cliff. When Cliff tries to fight with Adam, he blocks Cliff’s hits, but never feels like he wants to be engaging in a fight. Cliff uses Adam’s reluctance against him by suggesting fighting is immature. Adam happily agrees and Cliff tries to sneak in another hit, hoping Adam’s guard is down, but this does not work.

There is an innocence to Adam that comes across as charming and refreshing, but also can lead him to be taken advantage of by people who know this world. Eve (Alicia Silverstone) first finds Adam when he tries to sell baseball cards at the store where she works. The owner is trying to buy the cards for much less than they are worth. Eve steps in and helps Adam. From this moment, he starts to fall in love with Eve. Throughout the film, he is in awe about everything Eve does and constantly tells her how wonderful she is, including appreciating and believing her self-described psychic ability.

Adam is in awe of everything from hotel rooms, color television, and computers, to the vastness of the ocean. In a particularly memorable moment, Eve drives Adam to the Holiday Inn and she flips through radio stations. When a singer he recognizes comes through, he is ecstatic and says, “Go back. You had him. It’s Perry. Perry Como”. Adam finds joy in hearing something familiar within this new world, like the new and exciting is being blended with what is familiar to him. Eve sees this as odd, but there is a glint of happiness suggesting the way her feelings for him evolve throughout the film.

One major aspect of Blast from the Past that represents it as a more progressive film is how Adam is open to learning from anyone and actually respects what they have to say. When Adam mentions wanting help finding a wife, he actively listens to Eve’s opinions about marriage and how strange his request seems. He doesn’t write this off and push his own beliefs. Adam is inquisitive and interested in what modern culture has to offer instead of comparing it to his own 1950s influenced philosophy. When Calvin came up to the surface, he was disgusted by what he found and ran back to the safety of his safety net where it can always be the early 1960s, but Adam does not allow his lifestyle to impact how he views the late 90s world in which he finds himself.

When Eve runs to go find Adam because she realizes how she feels, he is coming back to her for the same reason. He accidentally scares her, causing her to fall out of her car onto the road. Once inside, Adam helps nurse her wounds in what ends up being the most intimate scene in the film. The sexual tension of Adam blowing on Eve’s scraped knee recalls moments in classic screwball comedies such as The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story where intimacy is found in the simplest actions such as hair brushing and unzipping a dress. This exceptionally intimate moment ends as Adam sings “On the Street Where You Live” which he introduces by saying, “There’s a song Mister Como sings”.

Speaking of Perry Como, the last Brendan Fraser role I see as a man out of time comes from one of his most recent performances as Cliff Steele aka Robotman—a performance collaboration with Riley Shanahan who provides the masterful physical performance as Robotman while Fraser provides the vocal—on Doom Patrol, a show where Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) by Perry Como plays from a Jukebox attached to a giant butt-shaped balloon, causing everyone in a crowded park to go completely insane.

Cliff was in a car accident with his wife Kate and daughter Clara. The Chief (Timothy Dalton) was able to salvage only Cliff’s brain, which he put inside a robotic body, giving new life to the race car driver. Years pass where the chief works on building Cliff, turning his power on and off throughout this time. When Cliff is learning how to speak again, he sees a calendar in the back of the room with the year as 1995. Noticing this jumpstarts Cliff’s brain. His anger at missing all this time with his wife and daughter sparks his speaking, even though it comes in the form of repeatedly saying “Fuck” and “What the fuck?”.

Cliff is a (robot)man out of time who desperately wishes he was with his family but does not know yet that he will build a new family with the rest of this group of misfits also residing in Doom Manor.

Cliff’s last phone message to Kate is repeated like a mantra throughout this pilot episode. “I don’t know what happened to us. I’m going to be better”. This statement influences the fiber of Cliff’s journey after becoming Robotman. He knows he needs to be a better person, and in becoming someone that other characters repeatedly refer to as not being a man, he finally can become the best version of himself.

Doom Patrol (2019 – Present)

The pre-transformation moments illustrate the loving and kind side of Cliff, but this aspect of his personality was falling away and being replaced with someone bitter and unhappy. Cliff’s love for his family, especially his daughter Clara, helps him learn how to use his robotic body. He tries and tries to climb up a small set of physical therapy steps but cannot until he experiences a vivid memory of helping Clara walk up the steps. Her presence, even in the form of a waking dream, pushes him to achieve this small, but vastly important goal. Cliff Steele is a character who becomes one of the most helpful and sweetest characters in the show after being presented in the earliest moments as a drunk, cheating husband.

As this first episode of Doom Patrol progresses, Jane (Diane Guerrero) organizes a group trip with everyone living in Doom Manor which includes Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), and Larry Trainor/Negative Man (a collaboration between Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk). Cliff and Jane have a conversation where he realizes the trip was so he could buy a present for his daughter’s birthday. He tells Jane, “One day a year, I had one job. Buy the present. It was my favorite day. The accident was a few days before her birthday, I was so angry by then, at my wife, myself, I couldn’t see past my own stuff … and I forgot”. He regrets forgetting her present and with Jane’s help, he buys a stuffed giraffe for Clara, which he will keep and hold onto throughout the season as a physical reminder that she’s still alive.

Throughout the series, Cliff Steele is allowed to express his varying and intense emotions while still being shown as strong. He shows respect to the other members of his team and actively wants to help his friends, especially with their emotional troubles. He advocates for the team to talk about their problems by chanting “Therapy” over and over. This leads to revelations and growth among the team.

The character of Cliff/Robotman could very easily latch onto the more toxic aspects of his pre-accident self, but instead the feeling of needing to change and his love for his family are what is focused on more than his cheating. We are introduced to a character who genuinely wants to become a better person, even before the accident that leads to his new journey. Cliff was self-aware and knew he needed to change, but that chance was stripped away until he was rebuilt and could focus that restorative energy to his new makeshift, strange family.

In the episode Donkey Patrol, Cliff does not want to lose Jane. He has the best connection with her, even though his relationship with the personalities he has met from the 64 in her head are all vastly different. Some like and look up to him, while others hate him or are even scared of him.

Throughout this episode, Cliff tries to calm Jane down and actively wants to learn about her personalities, so he can help her, but he also understands when he goes too far. When Cyborg comes to the manor, he asks Cliff how Jane works. Cliff’s response signifies how deeply he cares for her. He says, “Work? She’s not a fucking machine” which is quickly followed up with, “And I have no idea”. Cliff both respects Jane and knows that he cannot be the one to explain this aspect of her identity that is unique to her.

Jane and Cliff in Doom Patrol episode Jane Patrol (2019)

In the episode Jane Patrol, Cliff ventures into the Underground in order to help Jane, and ends up learning about himself as well as her. When he returns Cyborg asks what happened and Cliff responds with, “That’s not my story to tell. The good thing is she’s back. And I think she’s better”. This is such an important and emotional moment in the growing relationship between Jane and Cliff. He knows not to share her trauma. He knows that is something she must do on her own when she’s ready.

In this episode, Cliff makes Jane a PB&J, which is accepted by Baby Doll, but is rejected once her personalities shift and she says, “None of us are your fucking daughter”. Cliff does not give up on helping Jane but does not push her into accepting the sandwich. As time passes, he tells her, “I just want you to feel safe”, and Jane feels the truth and emotion in his response, so she asks, “Would you make me another sandwich?”

In a particularly moving moment in the episode Puppet Patrol, Cliff finds a kitten and pets it. In such a small and simple moment, we feel Cliff’s pain. As he pets, he says, “I bet you’re real fuzzy too aren’t ya?” There’s a softness to the action and Cliff displays once again how he can’t feel anything, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He still wants to offer comfort to the cat, even though he does not feel anything physical in return. This episode also shows Cliff trying to call Clara after he finds her phone number in his file. He wants to reach out but knows why it wouldn’t work. Cliff cares about Clara and wants to reconnect, but he does not think he is worthy enough of her love.

There is a kindness and heart to Doom Patrol’s Cliff and a desire to make others feel better, which is often not represented in superheroes, especially ones who curse often and are built from hardships and violence. He dances with a child dressed in a robot outfit. He gives the Chief’s daughter Dorothy a ride in a toy car. In this part of the story, most of the team has been shrunk down to the size of toys. There are many more examples of Cliff being kind and sweet throughout the series.

Cliff is a well-rounded character, and his expression of emotions combats the toxic masculinity idea that men are not allowed to have these sorts of feelings, leading to the sort of man Cliff was before his accident. His active desire to be a better person less focused on how society says men should act puts him as a staple in the pantheon of characters fighting against toxic masculinity.

Like the other characters seemingly out of time, Cliff must find ways to reconnect with the people he left behind, even if they are not the conventional paths he wishes would be open to him. Without Clara knowing, Cliff fights an alligator for her, and this helps him get that much closer to reconciliation. In the second season of Doom Patrol, Cliff reconnects with Clara who is now pregnant and getting married to a woman named Melissa. Cliff is accepting of her sexuality and reassures her by offering heartfelt advice, and by the end of their time reconnecting, Clara invites him to her wedding.

A Supernatural Influence: Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled and The Mummy

Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled (2000) with Elizabeth Hurley & The Mummy (1999) with Rachel Weisz

The inclusion of supernatural forces finds its way into Brendan Fraser’s filmography in extremely different ways in the films Bedazzled (2000) and The Mummy (1999). Bedazzled is a remake of the 1967 film of the same name. The original film followed Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) who sold his soul to the devil (Peter Cook). In the 2000 remake, the part of the devil is played by Elizabeth Hurley in a twist on the classic notions we have of this all-powerful being. Brendan Fraser plays Elliot Richards, a socially inept man stuck in a dead-end job where he sees the girl of his dreams Alison (Frances O’Connor) often, but never talks to her.

The Mummy is another remake, this time of the classic 1932 Universal Monsters film which starred Boris Karloff. The 1999 film follows Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), and her brother Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) as they unleash Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) during an archeological dig, and he believes his long lost love Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez) has been reincarnated in Evelyn.

Bedazzled and The Mummy both tie into the overarching theme of kindness, innocence, and establishing the modern himbo found in a large selection of Brendan Fraser’s films. Bedazzled and The Mummy create an atmosphere reminiscent of a classic screwball comedy and the importance of powerful women and sensitive men in those narratives.

In a ridiculous yet charming fashion, Bedazzled captures the frantic energy and absurdity of the ending of The Palm Beach Story when Elliot meets a woman identical to his dream girl, but who actually shares some personality traits with him. This brings to mind the frantically-paced double wedding that rings in the Palm Beach Story finale where Joel McCrea’s Tom Jeffers and Claudette Colbert’s Gerry Jeffers are revealed to both have identical twin siblings, giving Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor) and J.D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) their own happy endings. Brendan Fraser captures the charm and heart of the classic screwball leading man, and this comes through across his filmography.

In Bedazzled, the Devil runs a computer program finding the most desperate and weak souls to exploit. She lands on Elliot with his innocence and intense desire to be liked by those around him. She exploits his personality and, like a screwball comedy, is the more powerful character in the film. She pushes the action throughout the film, especially by making each of his wishes play out in an unexpected and negative manner.

Elliot has poor social skills, but there is an underlying happiness in his character. Even though Elliot is desperate and in a dead-end job, he still tries to make the most of everything and at times, does not realize that his co-workers don’t like him.

Pointing towards the goodness of his genuine character, in each subsequent wish, Elliot tries to make them more aimed at what Allison wants. He tries to be her version of a fantasy rather than the power-fueled fantasy of his first post-Big Mac wish. Showing how spectacularly this wish fails points toward the toxic qualities of putting all your energy in gaining power and money without actually thinking about what really connects people.

One of the main themes of the film is how the best version of Elliot is one unchanged but with added confidence. He grows and finds that being himself but with the confidence that he is worthy of having friends, and not changing the fiber of his personality to end up with someone dissimilar to him is the only way to respect and accept himself.

This thematic pull shows that Bedazzled combats the idea that being afraid of emotions and relying only on self-described masculine traits will only result in failure. Elliot goes through various wishes where he’s rich, powerful, sensitive, and overly intelligent, yet none of these are enough to attract Allison because he was not meant to be with her. The film ends with him finding a woman who accepts and appreciates him without changes, and it is this unique blend of sensitivity, giddiness, and innocence that makes Elliot who he is.

Elliot is granted seven wishes by the devil, the first of which is a big mac and a large coke, which she grants by taking him on a bus to the nearest McDonald’s where he then must pay for the order with his own money. The film builds an entertaining humor with all these slightly twisted wishes and establishes an interesting dynamic between Elliot and the Devil, one with chemistry and a screwball power dynamic.

Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled (2000) and The Mummy (1999)

In addition to exploring Elliot’s interest in Allison and his realization that they do not fit well together, Elliot gains confidence through his relationship with the Devil. Their dynamic is unique and charged and the woman—in this case the devil—is the one with more power in the relationship, but throughout the film, there is genuine interest on her part. She wants to help, and the film ends with them remaining friends, even with their vast differences and the connotations of the relationship.

The Mummy explores the developing relationship between Rick and Evelyn, which focuses on the social class and intelligence differences between the pair. This film feels influences by 1930s cinema in general, instead of only the 1932 film The Mummy. The social class differences recall the screwball comedies of the era, and by making Evelyn a character who is both emotionally strong and smarter than her counterparts, the main themes of this genre are thoroughly represented.

Rick is an adventurer, knowledgeable about the more physical side of archaeological expeditions, while Evelyn is seen as more intelligent and knowledgeable about Egyptology. She is seen as prim and proper against the more rugged persona of Rick, but the character is not centered entirely around these traits. Brendan Fraser gives a layered personality and lightheartedness to the action hero that is often not seen in films of this genre.

Another way The Mummy sets itself apart from other enemies to lovers narratives is that Evelyn is never presented as completely hating Rick. Their differences are pointed out and explored, but from their first passionate and impulsive kiss, Evelyn already feels something. We are shown her thought process and budding crush when she is alone, expressing her feelings to herself, and wondering if she should be feeling them. In so many other opposites attract stories, the woman is shown as being unfriendly until some point far down the line where something changes her mind. Rick and Evelyn both are presented as interested in each other from the beginning, but unsure if they should express these feelings.

The Mummy showcases a unique example of an action-adventure romance where the leading man cares more about respecting his female counterpart and making sure she is safe than he does about finding any sort of treasure. Brendan Fraser creates a unique version of the established action hero in Rick O’Connell. There is really no desire in Rick’s heart to return to the lost city of Hamunaptra—aka the City of the Dead—but he is willing to lead Evelyn and her brother on this journey. Some aspects of the typical action hero exist, and Fraser plays those qualities wonderfully, but in a way, he helped create a new breed of action hero that has more heart, a sense of humor, and the capability for growth and change.

Rick as a character combats toxic masculinity because his entire personality is not defined by his strength, ruggedness, or desire for treasure. This combination of qualities comes through wonderfully in Brendan Fraser’s performance. Some of these attributes exist in his character but are balanced with other personality traits and an acceptance of his emotions and the ability to respect others and know when someone is smarter than him. Throughout the film, he is constantly amazed by Evelyn and wants everyone to know how smart and capable she is, even if he wasn’t around. She might have been the one the unleash the undead after saying, “No harm ever came from reading a book”, but she is just as willing to discover a solution to their Mummy problem.


Throughout Brendan Fraser’s career, he has played a plethora of unique, layered characters who explore the importance of not being afraid to display your emotions, something that is often seen to not be a masculine trait. This idea of regulating emotion and what traits men are able to possess creates a toxic atmosphere for men who are often told they should not cry or represent their emotions in any physical way. These characters represent that men can be joyful, emotionally conscious, and sensitive, while also representing their masculine identity instead of painting those qualities as fighting against their masculinity.