Revolution is like many other dystopian fantasies. Once again, we have White man saves the world with people of colour in servant roles when they do appear and of course, the invisible gay canaries. By that I mean no gay people, because somehow they are always the first ones to die when the world ends. With the strong White male leader, normally we get a heavy dose of hyper masculinity and the viewer is expected to accept the rightness of an alpha male leader and embrace it. Consider for a moment Rick from The Walking Dead, and Tom Mason in Falling Skies. These two men both fit the mold for leadership that we have come to expect in a dystopian setting. Revolution takes the mold and expands upon it to make hyper masculinity not only the preserve of leadership but a necessary attribute of masculinity.
From the moment we meet Captain Tom Neville, he is savage and, in fact, a sadist. He rides into Ben’s small community with armed men and demands instant surrender on behalf of the militia. Tom uses violence and fear to keep his troops in line and the only person he seems to fear is Monroe. In episode five, for the first time we get a little insight into Neville’s backstory. We learn that Neville used to work as an insurance adjustor and lost his job when he gave clients coverage for a fire that they hadn’t actually paid for. In his boss’s office, he was passive and his body language was absolutely submissive, when he was fired. When Neville returns home, he tries to ask Rob, his neighbour to keep the noise level to a minimum but is ignored. Instead of being active and pursuing a confrontation in both instances, Neville enters his home and starts to take his frustrations out on a punching bag. He tells his son, Jason, that it’s good to punch but he must never punch people.This pre blackout Neville bears absolutely no resemblance to the tough captain we have learned to be wary of. When Tom breaks into his house looking for supplies, Neville beats him to death with his bare hands and in this moment, Captain Tom Neville is born. It’s not simply a case of the strong survive but a case that this is the appropriate behaviour for a real man. For Neville, a man protects his family, and a man shows power and does not back down. He has learned that a passive masculinity has dire repercussions and strips a man of his self worth.
Passive masculinity is also represented by Aaron. Pre black out, Aaron was an extremely powerful man - not because of his physical strength but for his wealth. Though he was beat up in the school yard as a child, for Aaron, revenge came in the form of a company with 300 employees, four homes and a private plane. In episode three, he expresses to Maggie the fear he feels in the world as it is today because the same type of people who bullied him in the school yard, are in power today. He calls it a joke, but clearly the loss of power and value as a man is something that haunts Aaron. He is desperate to get the power turned back on in the hope of returning to some semblance of the former power structure. Men like Aaron are dependent upon others for safety and he is barely functional with a weapon. His character exists often as comic relief on the show.
Ben Matheson is another story of the failed passive man, a man moved more by compassion and understanding than violence and aggression. In the very first episode Ben is killed trying to placate the soldiers of the militia. Even had Danny listened to him and put the crossbow down, Ben would have been taken prisoner - we learn from Charlie’s rant in No Quarter, that the militia had repeatedly come to their farm and demanded resources, children, women - and every time Ben had given them up. Even beyond being killed almost as soon as the show began, when we see Ben in flashbacks we again see his passivity as a bad thing - in Chained Heat we see his wife, Rachel, killing to defend their meager supplies, while Ben was willing to let them go and risk starvation. His passivity, his compassion would have hampered his family’s ability to survive.