Study Guide

Die Hard Men and Masculinity

Men and Masculinity

John McClane is a man's man. He knows his way around a weapon, smokes cigarettes, and swears like a sailor. He's also terrible at talking about his feelings and has a marriage on the rocks. In other words, he's a guy and a half, and much of Die Hard's wit stems from McClane flexing his metaphorical man muscles. His masculinity manifests itself in his constant wisecracking, his ability to make the most serious of situations a little lighter with a little snark. While other characters find ways to assert their manhood—mainly by trying to dominate their surroundings—McClane's manliness shines on the fly. He just can't help himself.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. What's the relationship between masculinity and violence in Die Hard? The more violent the character, the more manly? Or is it maybe the opposite?
  2. What's so masculine about all of McClane's wisecracks, anyway?
  3. In what ways do the different law enforcement officers—Chief Robinson, Sergeant Powell, F.B.I. agents Johnson and Johnson, the SWAT guys—challenge each other's masculinity?
  4. Let's hear it for the girls. In a movie so full of men being manly, how do the ladies fare?

Chew on This

John McClane's wisecracks are really just a manifestation of his insecurity about being a good family man.

John McClane represents the manly ideal—brave, heroic, a little rough around the edges—while Hans represents the effeminate threat to that ideal. He's suave, polished, and cares way too much about clothes.

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