Chuck

MAN! I feel like a woman.

Today’s post is brought to you by writer and artist extraordinaire, Ani of Tales from the Idcheck it!

*Disclaimer: contains spoilers*

In a day and age when the media is blitzkrieging us with girly-men and really, almost frighteningly, sexy women, Chuck and Sarah stand apart. At first glance, they might look like all the rest: she’s hardcore, dangerous, and powerful; he’s dorky and doesn’t know one end of a gun from the other. But Sarah is tough and lethal because she’s wounded, and while Chuck might be emotional and unwilling to kill anyone, it’s because he is a fully integrated human being (body, mind, emotions, and soul all on the same page—or at least very willing to communicate with each other) and can use his particular skill sets to protect Sarah and the team without harming others.

Adam Baldwin as Major John Casey -- NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth

John Casey is set up as a foil to Chuck. Where Chuck is a fun-loving dork, Casey is all business. While Chuck is sensitive to the tensions in the group, Casey grunts in disgust at the very idea of feelings. Chuck can’t take a life no matter what the circumstances are, but it’s not unusual for Casey to take down ten Black Ops single-handedly. Even physically they are different: in the first season, Chuck has shaggy hair and is lean and rather undefined, whereas Casey has a crew cut and is powerfully built.

But of the three characters, Chuck is the most well-rounded, and he is a genuinely good human being. He cares deeply about people, and when he talks about emotions it never seems effeminate. He may not have any natural kick-butt inclinations like Sarah and Casey, but his character still possesses a free, masculine, quiet kind of strength.

As the team works together, Sarah and Casey come to appreciate and even respect Chuck, and eventually his refusal to kill (or even shoot at) others plays a big part in Sarah falling in love with him. In the early episodes, Sarah is so divorced from her femininity that at times she seems almost like a killing machine—the Terminator, actually, comes to mind. But through her friendship and eventual relationship with Chuck, she becomes a real woman. His gentle masculinity draws out her femininity and, by helping her to heal her old wounds and teaching her how to love and trust, she is brought into a fuller life: one that desires communion with another, belongingness, family.

By the end of the series, Sarah and Chuck are married and Sarah wants to live a normal life, have a family, and just be a wife and mother. This transformation from a wounded, angry soul, to a woman desiring to more fully live her femininity, speaks to the power of healing found in the relationship between masculinity and femininity. Pope John Paul II put it this way: “femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity.”

And Sarah isn’t the only one to change. Sarah’s femininity, which Chuck recognizes and seeks to protect long before Sarah is truly open to it, does in fact confirm Chuck’s masculinity. Through his relationship with her he grows into full, confident manhood—even altering his look by cropping his hair short and becoming more physically muscular. By the end of the series, the dorky guy Sarah and Casey started out protecting has become the leader of their team.

It’s through his friendship with Casey that Chuck has learned how to grow from a boy into a man, accept great responsibilities, and rise to challenges he never would have dreamed of facing before. Casey cultivates and strengthens in Chuck the virtues of loyalty, courage, and perseverance.

And Casey doesn’t get away unscathed, either. He began as a gruff and grunting no-nonsense agent, abhorring any hint of emotion as something anti-man and anti-soldier. His friendship with Chuck, however, opens him up to the possibility that it is okay (and even good) to have, acknowledge, and sometimes even express feelings. By the end of the series, it is clear that Casey has developed some very deep friendships and allowed himself to love and be loved by those friends. He has become more fully human.

The show isn’t perfect, and there are some glaringly unnecessary moments (the condom episode comes to mind)—but the truth of the value and restorative power inherent in right-ordered masculinity and femininity is apparent in the growth of the characters on the show, particularly Sarah’s character. She illustrates well what John Paul II calls “discovery of herself.”  He writes that woman discovers herself in the way she is received by man, through her gift of self to him, and her acceptance of his gift to her. And in this acceptance woman comes into the full possession of  “the whole dignity of… what she is in the whole truth of her humanity and in the whole reality of her body and her sex, of her femininity.” Sarah and Chuck show us how a woman, however wounded, can begin to recognize and possess her inherent femininity through the aid of man’s masculinity.

The End!