MacGyver was a television icon of his time — he could solve any problem with ingenuity and charm, like a Sherlock Holmes you’d actually want to hang out with. The show, which ran from 1985 to 1992, was so silly it might seem crazy to reboot – but we could really use a little MacGyvering these days.
If you’re under 30, you might know MacGyver primarily from your aunt’s inappropriate jokes, or maybe just from America’s aunts, Patty and Selma.
But rebooting this ‘80s hero is not just about nostalgia this time. For all the goofiness and jokes that it spawned, all the things that made MacGyver popular resonate now more than ever.
Non-violent conflict resolution
Our modern fears involve terrorism and mass shootings in our schools, workplaces, homes, and leisure spots. There has to be something positive, and comforting, about the narrative that one can save oneself from a dangerous situation with creativity (and luck), rather than violence. It’s time to replace the “good guy with a gun” myth with a “good guy with some level-headed, rational thought” narrative.
MacGyver was a notably pacifist problem solver, and famously anti-gun. Seriously, the NRA hated him. It was vital to the whole set-up to show; since he couldn’t shoot his way out of a given situation, he had to MacGyver it. He once used a gun – as a wrench, after dismantling it, because that’s just how he rolls.
With the over saturation of gun violence on TV and in real life, it’s about time we get a pacifist action hero again. Often, even if our on screen heroes have a personal code against killing, they don’t have a code against beating the shit out of a dude. Overall, MacGyver was low on violence, and if the reboot doesn’t stay true to that, then it’s not really MacGyver. Now more than ever, we need a show that is not just without guns, but specifically anti-gun.
It’s totally pro-science
MacGyver may be remembered as an action hero, but he was also a huge nerd. He used his knowledge of hard sciences to engineer his signature escape moves, and the show took pains to be scientifically accurate. MacGyver is the antidote to every surly high schooler that’s ever said “but when am I going to use this?” Just as MacGyver was explicitly anti-gun, it was also explicitly pro-science.
It’s not that television overall is anti-science right now, but an alarming amount of people are. There are citizens, and worse, politicians in the US who deny climate change, are anti-vaccine, think chemtrails are a thing, and all manner of other wrong shit that threatens public health, reproductive rights, and attempts to stem global warming. Basically, there are still adults out there that need to turn on their TVs and learn that problems can be solved based on a scientific understanding of the world we live in.
I personally hope there’s an episode where he escapes from a situation involving a communicable disease, and his clever solution was having been appropriately vaccinated beforehand.
A modern take on masculinity
Hypermasculinity is out and MacGyver was ahead of the nonviolent, intellectual masculinity curve. No wonder aunts loved him. The new MacGyver series focuses his son, played by Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class), who bears a convincing resemblance to the original. and based on his role in the upcoming film Monster Trucks, he knows how to balance cheesiness with charm in a role that is goofy AF but ultimately delightful.
Just as original star Richard Dean Anderson was a heartthrob for Patty and Selma, Till is right out of the pages of Lisa’s Non-Threatening Boys Magazine. He’s a secret agent, but he looks like they recruited him from the farmer’s market. He looks like his hobbies are organic beekeeping and tutoring elementary schoolers. And it’s wonderful.
Hopefully the reboot takes MacGyver even further to wokeness and avoids sexist gaffes like this.
Sure, we’ve been experiencing a trend toward higher-quality television in the past two decades, but escapism was the original draw of on screen entertainment, and always will be. Spend any time on social media, and you will sense the growing despair about the 2016 in general (not just because it’s the hottest on record ). There is definitely still a place for classic, dumb-but-fun escapism and there is no better than MacGyver, the cheesy show about literally escaping.
The new MacGyver premieres on CBS September 23.