It Can’t Rain All The Time: The Crow and Masculinity

Written By Jordan Kurella

Jordan Kurella is a trans and disabled author who has lived all over the world (including Moscow and Manhattan). In his past lives, he was a photographer, radio DJ, and social worker. His novella, I NEVER LIKED YOU ANYWAY, and his short story collection, WHEN I WAS LOST, both released in 2022. Jordan lives in Ohio with his perfect service dog and perfectly serviceable cat.

Two movies released when I was eighteen years old. One was The Crow, and the other was Pulp Fiction. One changed my life; the other was by Quentin Tarantino.

I saw both movies. Pulp Fiction was considered, widely, to be the better of the two. It won awards, several, many. But The Crow resonated further with me. It was the movie I always wished had been made, the perennial Halloween celebrant, the up and coming goth weirdo. The trans man looking for something, anything. 

A touchstone. 

The Crow was a goth movie made for goths. It had the grit, the grime, the filth that 90s goth culture was steeped in. As a trans man, The Crow was the film I didn’t know I needed. As a goth trans man, it understood me in places that no other film had previously. 

In The Crow, the hero is Eric Draven (Brandon Lee), a vengeful spirit brought back from the dead by the eponymous crow, to avenge the death of not only himself, but his fiancé Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas). He does so with elegance and much violence. The violence is enacted specifically to each of the villains, where the overall message is this: the tools of your destruction will be your own undoing.

The villains are many, but the heroes outshine them all. Yes, heroes, plural.

Unlike other singular superhero films, Eric Draven makes friends, and these friends become heroes who he lifts up not as sidekicks. No, Eric assists these friends so that they can become heroes on their own. Their agency is not stolen for Eric’s own gain, instead, he allows them to realize their true potential and, ultimately, become heroes themselves. There is Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson), a downwardly mobile police officer who (spoilers) ultimately realizes that policing is bad after all. 

Then there’s Sarah (Rochelle Davis), a teenager whom Eric and Shelly had taken care of prior to their deaths. Even as a young person, Sarah isn’t totally made to be useless in the film, and Eric allows her to find her own agency and help those around her. She is the narrator of the movie, and the one who really holds the film together—without Sarah, there would be no story to tell.

Eric Draven is an incredible superhero. The bastion of masculinity that I aspired to as a young adult. No wonder, as a college student returned to the States, I wore out two VHS tapes of the movie. Watching it again and again to where I knew the film line for line. 

It is a tragic film, not only in its story—Eric Draven returning from the dead to avenge the horror enacted on Shelly, how he cannot maintain his friendship with Albrect and Sarah. How all the good he does is fleeting (for him). It is also in the history of its filming. During a scene with gunfire, Brandon Lee (Eric Draven) was shot with a live round, and killed on set.

This makes the film hard to watch, flinching every time a gun goes off. There is no lack of empathy when watching Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) go about with nigh immortality (so he assumes). The empathy when watching The Crow is both within and without the movie: in the harsh reality of Brandon Lee’s death, and in the story of Eric Draven.

But this, to me, is what goth culture is about; what masculinity is about. 

As a goth trans man, currently in the midst of transition, being goth is about finding joy in what would destroy us. Eric Draven personifies that. Goth culture, in its music, its clothing, its adoration of all that is dreary and bleak, is about hope. Masculinity, at its core, sweeping away the toxicity that men are taught over and over again, is about upholding one’s own sense of hope, and empathy.

Because being a man is, truly, being human.

Many men might talk about their pride, honor, and integrity. For some men, hope can be a cost to this pride, integrity, and honor. But for Eric Draven, he saw in Shelly a sense of hope. Eric and Shelly were facing eviction in a city that was under constant threat of violence and harm from the crime lord Top Dollar (Michael Wincott). Yet, hope remained: It can’t rain all the time.

For Eric to be able to understand his role as what he was (this spirit, and his mission), but also to extend a hand of friendship to Albrecht and Sarah. To see them for what they were: people who needed to be more, do more with their lives than the hands they were dealt? That is what being a man is about. 

It is not simply about being strong, or tough, or whatever culture has taught us. It is about caring, and listening, and understanding. It is about being human, the essentials of being human. Goth has always had a softness around it: for all its black bluster and doom, it is a caring counterculture. 

Open to those who would welcome hope, empathy, and love.

This was not evident in most films. As young goth man, my other avenues for film role models were not about that. In these films, men were: stalkers, creepy undead monstrosities, unavailable dudes who won women over with their unabashed unavailability, Batman, and abusive men who women adored.

Among others. 

The Crow, however, stood sentinel outside these films as a breath of fresh air, tinged with smoke, and a few tears. 

[photo: Miramax Films]

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