This story is part of a series, "I See You Man," about depictions of manhood and masculinity running through the month of November, which is Men's Health Awareness month.
Up until Season 3, GLOW's Keith Bang, played bv Bashir Salahuddin, seemed like the prototype for the perfect husband, if such a thing exists. As Cherry Bang's (Sydelle Noel) other half, Keith can tell when his wife is upset and coaxes her into talking ("Come on baby, talk to me," is a familiar refrain), and when she isn't up for sex, he doesn't berate her but instead offers to please her with his tongue.
"My wife watches the show and is like, 'Can you please send him home one day?'" Bashir Salahuddin told TV Guide of his character earlier this year. He credits showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive with making Keith the man he is and applauds the thought they put into crafting him. "It's really important for them to batter at stereotypes for men. It was important for them to say, 'Men like this did exist, and here's an example.'"
Cherry and Keith's relationship seems so idealized that it's almost fantasy — or it was until the first half of Season 3, when Cherry begins to have second thoughts about having a baby. One of the consistent and illuminating themes in the Netflix wrestling series is how women deal with issues in the workplace, and Season 3 in particular peers closely at how the mothers in the group balance parenting and work. Cherry, who previously suffered a miscarriage, is hesitant to try again, and she begins in Season 3 to weigh the toll pregnancy could have on her career, since she uses her body to do her job. Even the usually patient and supportive Keith is angered to see her wavering when he thought they were in agreement. In a heartbreaking scene, he reminds her he's been patiently waiting to start making a baby, and although he avoided talking about it after her miscarriage, he can wait no longer. "I want a f---ing family," he tells her, tearing up. Cherry says she's not sure anymore, and he starts to cry. When he asks, "Does it matter what I want?" Cherry doesn't have an answer.
Keith has the right to be upset, given that they discussed having a baby before marrying, but Cherry is also right that it's her body and her career on the line. When Keith storms out, disappearing until the season finale, it is not his finest moment. He is redeemed at the end of the season, though: As Keith and his wife reconcile, he tells Cherry that he met with an adoption counselor while they were apart and that he's open to adopting so that they could have a family and she could focus on her career. He even offers to stay home with the kid.
These are almost shocking values for a man of the 1980s. With the exception of maybe Anthony Micelli (Tony Danza) on Who's the Boss?, the men of Full House, or that African-American doctor whose legacy is now tarnished, the idea of a man willingly staying at home to raise the kids was basically a joke. Even at his worst, Keith has been drawn as an exceptional husband, a man who props up his wife and treats her as an equal partner, rather a nuisance or "ball and chain" to be tuned out with football and beers with the bros. He might just be a model husband — and that's in the physical sense, too.
The standard image of a "sexy guy" on screen is one whose six pack is never far from view: a temple of pecs, biceps, and abs with zero body hair and zero body fat. News flash: Most men don't look like Men's Health cover models, and experts say that body dysmorphia affects men and women almost equally. That's why Keith, frequently chllin' on the bed shirtless, or walking confidently into a room with his furry chest and squishy tummy exposed, looks like a kind of triumph: a guy who's sexy outside and inside too. "I'm so happy to be a part of expanding what the idea of what a man's body could look like on television," Salahuddin said. "Men never admit publicly some of the things they say online and in forums, but we suffer from the same body image issues as women; it's just that women are more vocal about it. If we say, 'I'm uncomfortable being undressed,' or, 'I don't like taking my shirt off at the beach,' it's like something's wrong with you. So yeah, the Dad bod sex symbol? I'll be that guy. I'll take it."
Keith upends several stereotypes about husbands — he's surrounded by other women but never so much as winks at another, and he does not seem threatened by Cherry's ambition or success — but his single most admirable trait might be his willingness to stay out of his wife's way. As conflicts arise, like the time Cherry is working on a TV show she hates, Keith finds ways to be supportive without barging in and solving Cherry's problems for her. Keith respects Cherry's agency and her choices, and playing him has helped the actor better understand what women want from partners. "We [men] don't think about how sometimes it's just being quiet," said Salahuddin. "Men are always trying to be like, 'How do we solve this?' when we're the problem. Often times it's best to just step back, stop 'manning' it up."
Once upon a time, the fairy tale man was supposed to ride in on a horse and rescue a helpless woman from the world around her. But in Keith, men see an alternative hero to aspire to: A man who listens, compromises, asks his lady what she wants, and does that, even if it means getting out of her way.
GLOW has been renewed for a fourth and final season. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix.