Masculinity in the Last Unicorn

Lir: The Traditional Hero

Lir represents the traditional hero: he falls in love at first sight with the fair Amalthea, tries to court her by killing a dragon and later writing poetry. He does all in his power to be of “use” to Amalthea.

Lir represents the very old archetype of hero and the belief that men should woo the women that they love. If she ignores you, you just got to keep trying to win her love. Note the implicit notion of passivity in the female and the activeness of the male.

Also recall Mina’s comment from the previous post: “The idea that the heroine’s falling in love has caused her to “forget who she is” is tied to a very antiquated notion.” This is further reinforced here, when Amalthea urges Lir to make her forget what the dreams keep telling her to remember. And when she finally does forget, she falls in love with Lir.

Furthermore, Lir’s total devotion to Amalthea is very romanticized notion of manhood. A romanticized notion that often appears in media aimed primarily at young girls. Think of the prince’s total devotion to Cinderella or Aurora. Girls are shown very unrealistic images of manhood (as well as womanhood), which paints unrealistic notions of themselves and boys. This likewise happens to boys.

Are such romanticized images good for either sex? Is there something true about the view that falling in love means forgetting your own dreams or has this arisen from the assumption that women have to conform to men when they choose mutual life (i.e. fall in love and start a family)?

Masculinity in the Red Bull

The Red Bull is another representation of masculinity. Firstly, he is a bull and therefore male in nature. Second, he is aggressive and large and relentlessly chases the feminine Unicorn.

It’s interesting that the negative side of masculinity is shown when we have the idealization of manhood present in the character of Lir. Ultimately, however, the Red Bull only reinforces the notions that men are violent and aggressive, while women are not.

Schmendrick: The other Man

What is curious about “The Last Unicorn” is Schmendrick, who is quite unlike any male hero one would normally find in a children’s movie. First off, he has trouble rescuing the Unicorn and being a magician. He doesn’t think much of himself or his magic yet tries his hardest. He’s very pessimistic yet still tries to do what he feels he should. But most importantly, he is paired with Molly, the middle-aged ex-wife of a bandit. The two of them aren’t seen doing anything “romantic”, and the viewer only realizes the two are together in the last moments of the film when Schmendrick helps Molly onto a horse and the two of them leave together. Their love is shown to have arisen through mutual exchanges, slow and gradual. A much more realistic notion than love at first sight.

It is interesting that him and Molly are present in the film, almost parallel to the idealistic relationship of Lir and Amalthea. However, even still, the focus is on Amalthea and Lir as the main relationship. In the end, I cannot but wonder why such an unusual pair and a far more realistic duo was even present in the film.

Is the Last Unicorn attempting to subvert the idealized relationship of Amalthea and Lir? Or are Schmendrick and Molly more tacked on? But even if they are tacked on, is the presence of a more realistic relationship revolutionary in itself? What is the significance of idealized masculinity in Lir and brutish masculinity of the Bull?

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5 Responses to “Masculinity in the Last Unicorn”


  1. 1 Anonymous February 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    i don’t think they are enforcing or questioning any roles they did show a feminine figure choosing love and also fighting to protect it

  2. 2 Anonymous February 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    i have to say that i like kid’s movies to be just that: kid’s movies, to be honest we can see anything if we look hard enough ( take for example full body MRI’s, they can find at least a dozen tumors which in most cases end up being bennin)

  3. 3 daffiepie March 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I think that it’s funny how Lir is the “stereotypical” and perfect prince that is chivalrous and strong, but I don’t think it’s a problem. I mean look at disney princess movies they are all like that. Though he does fall in love with the unicorn-turned-human based only on her looks is what bothers me!

  4. 4 z.t.hudson@gmail.com January 31, 2011 at 12:47 am

    So many people seem to fall for the “It’s not meant to be deep, so why look deeply?” escape. It irks me. I appreciate your site.

    I don’t think the red bull is saying something negative about masculinity because it is not the only masculine thing in the movie. Lir and Schmendrik, as you say, are other examples. And Lir problematizes the “dragon-slaying hero” role quite literally–killing things doesn’t make her fall for him. This story in many ways questions traditional fairy tales. Lir must realize that Amalthia can’t be “won”; they don’t stay together in the end; the female hero defeats the monster and saves the man. But more than than, a lot of the movie concerns the destabilizing of romanicization. See Molly’s scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFfBuzddUMk&feature=related
    Also consider the witch’s travelling menagerie and Schmendrick and Molly’s honest mundaneness.

    Interesting thought about the Red Bull–if you have to have a brutish, unthinking monster, should you make it male, like the Red Bull, or female, like in Aliens (or Beowulf)? If you reduce analysis to simply equating the qualities of a particular character with all the other qualities of that character, you could never have a villian, or even anyone imperfect, without offending someone.

  5. 5 z.t.hudson@gmail.com January 31, 2011 at 1:02 am

    You could even see the destruction of the castle at the end as the destruction of an ideal of dominance. Unicorns are set free, and so is Lir–no longer bound in that lonely patriarchial castle and the baggage that comes with it.

    Oh, I forgot to comment about falling in love = losing innocence = losing identity. I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I saw instead: falling in love = being human; being human = losing fantasy magic but gaining understanding of human emotion. That in itself is losing innocence in away, but as a consequence of being human, not being a woman who falls in love.

    I’m again reminded of the Lion King: the hero is too weak to face the Big Bad, so escapes. While hiding out, hero forgets his/her identity, and must be reminded, and return to face Big Bad.


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