I can’t recommend it enough: every boy in America should be watching Little House on the Prairie.

Of course, in a world overrun with big-budget space westerns and superhero flicks, watching a 1970s television series about a simple farming family from the late 1800s probably isn’t very high on any boy’s watchlist. I understand that. But the series exemplifies a special kind of heroism sorely lacking in today’s world.

And young boys desperately need to be exposed to it.

The true paragon of the series is Michael Landon’s character, Charles Ingalls. He isn’t the kind of hero who fights off super villains or saves cities from ruin, granted, but he’s a hero nonetheless, a nearly perfect example of everything a man should be.

He works hard – extremely hard – to provide for his family. He is a devoted, loving husband and father whose wife and children utterly adore him for how he treats them. He isn’t afraid to fight, but only for the right reasons.

Yes, Charles is a hero. A true man’s man.

Young boys can’t help but admire him. And in admiring him as a person they inevitably begin to admire his heroic qualities. In their eyes, it becomes heroic to use masculine strength to protect women; shameful to use it to hurt them. Heroic to live responsibly; blameworthy to live negligently. Heroic to lovingly care for one’s family; dishonorable to do anything less. Charles doesn’t just sit boys down for a talk and tell them what it means to be a good man. He shows them. And he makes goodness look, well… good.

This is exactly why boys need heroes.

SEE ALSO: We stand in the shadow of heroes. Let’s act worthy of them.

Additionally, this is exactly why the solution to “toxic” masculinity is not to show boys stupid, toxic men, but to show them knights in shining armor. Make good men look heroic and boys will want to be good. As they cheer the hero on his journey – even one as simple as raising a family – they will also, subconsciously, cheer on and even begin to idolize his virtues and strengths.

Ironically, however, our generation – the same generation dead set on deconstructing the toxicity of manliness – has all but dismissed the need for positive, truly masculine heroes. Instead, we show our boys examples of what men should not be and tell them this is what men are.

I recently decided to take a deep dive into what the internet had to say about toxic masculinity. Not surprisingly, nearly every blog post on the topic decried example after example of just how dangerous men can be. What disturbed me was how hard it was to find any example of how heroic men can be.

I have no problem with shaming toxic men, making them look like the losers they are. I have a problem with propping these men up as exemplars of masculinity for our boys and telling them, essentially, “this is what you are doomed to become.”

Boys don’t need to see example after example of just how dangerous men can be. They will, unfortunately, encounter more than enough of these examples in the real world. What boys need are examples of what it means to be a good man.

Show them men like Charles Ingalls, men who would never dream of mistreating a woman, and tell them “this is what you have the capacity to become. This is what a man should be.” Show them men like George Washington and Audie Murphy and remind them that they are capable of similar heroism.

SEE ALSO: Make Men Responsible Again

If we want boys to grow up to be men who work hard, live responsibly, behave chivalrously, treat women with honor and respect and accomplish heroic acts, we should let them heroize men who do these things. And while fictional and historical men can and should fill that role of “hero” to some extent, nothing quite replaces having that hero in the home.

If boys have dads who are heroes, they won’t have to depend on outside sources to define their image of heroic manhood. Just as Charles Ingalls makes responsible manhood look desirable, fathers can do the same for their sons.

For me personally, the only reason I ever wanted to be a good man, a good husband and a good dad was that my dad made those things look good. He didn’t make a mockery of manhood. He was a hero without reproach.

“It is a strangely embarrassing time to be a man,” was one of the more absurd lines I encountered in my analysis of toxic masculinity. My dad proves that line dead wrong. And so does every other hero I admire.

Manhood is just as noble as ever before. Or, at least, its potential for nobility is just as intact as ever before. If we want to address the rise of toxic men in our culture, it is not up to us to question manhood itself but to question our portrayal of manhood. 

Stop presenting boys with bad examples of masculinity. If we want good men we need to give our boys good heroes.

Jakob Fay is a former SIA Coordinator and current writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance