Read me up softboi

Lucia Qureshi introduces us to some of literature's softbois.

Lucia Qureshi
9th November 2020
With the increasing scrutiny of toxic masculinity, there has been an emergence of the term 'softboi', described by Cosmopolitan as “a new kind of masculinity that doesn’t include a bod you’re dying to see in one of those soaked-T-shirt-style photoshoots.”

This softer side to men questions traditional notions of the saviour and the damsel in distress trope, with men like Jonathan Harker in Dracula embodying the latter. Softbois can also be individuals that go above and beyond to be kind to others, such as Charles Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. Bingley’s kindness stands in stark contrast with Mr. Darcy’s cold and arrogant demeanour.

Jonathan Harker - Wikipedia
Johnathon Harker | Credit: Wikipedia

This leads us to the darker side of what The Guardian identifies as the “softboi spectrum”. Their soft exterior often hides deep-rooted superiority complexes, much like the “proud [and] unpleasant” Darcy. Often, the softboi’s source of pride and superiority is founded in their belief that they are unique in their alternative interests and are therefore better than everyone else. As such, definitions of the softboi depend upon the popular culture of the time.

For instance, Oscar Wilde was proud of his aesthetic sensibilities and extravagant lifestyle that separated him from the mainstream, making statements like “Everything popular is wrong” and “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.”

Mr Darcy - Wikidata
Mr Darcy | Credit: Wikipedia

Wilde also created characters that could be categorised as softbois, particularly Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Upon meeting Dorian Gray, Hallward becomes enamoured notably not by Gray but his perception of him. However, Gray becomes a different man under Lord Henry’s influence and Hallward cannot reconcile this perceived corruption. In this way, Hallward exemplifies the entitlement of the softboi in his expectations of what his love interest should be.

Basil Hallward - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Basil Hallward | Credit: Alliance Films

These literary examples provide a useful lens through which we can examine our understanding of masculinity.

Featured Image: Wikipedia & @beam_me_up_softboi on Instagram

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