Binge TV – Jake Doyle: Bad Boy with a Good Heart

By A.C. Rose

Binge TV - Jake Doyle: Bad Boy with a Good Heart, the three tomatoesI have a bit of a crush on Jake Doyle. And, I’ll admit, on Allan Hawco, the actor who portrays him.

There are legions of fans of his Canadian-based TV show, “The Republic of Doyle,” that feel the same way. It’s time the ladies of the USA get to know him!

For me, it all began during a family crisis.  Searching for something entertaining to help calm and recharge me, I stumbled onto “The Republic of Doyle,“ a show about Jake and his father Malachy, who run a private investigations agency in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  I didn’t even know exactly where that was and could not access the show via the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Network), but when I saw a photo of star Allan Hawco shirtless, I thought: “Hmmm… I would totally enjoy seeing him do that on television.”

Inspired, I tracked it down on Amazon and imbibed on season one… then two, three, four, five, six.  I bought one season at a time—waiting for my happy ending in the sixth and final season—but the show has since been syndicated around the world, and you can find it on Hulu and on DVD through Netflix.

I look at it this way: Rather than chocolate or alcohol, I opted for a fiction cocktail of the cocky, rebellious, leather-jacketed, hot, and kind-hearted Jake Doyle. I binge-watched over 70 episodes in a few weeks and found myself falling in love with the quirky characters and the province in which they lived and worked.  This bad-boy-with-a-good-heart became a bit of an addiction during our six seasons together—but it was for a good cause.

It was also a mini vacation and a cultural experience because the gorgeous harbor city of St. John’s is as much a star in the show as Jake.  The special language of the locals grows on you. One of my heart’s desires is to visit one day. And, of course, have a fangirl photo taken with Mr. Hawco.

The show truly helped me through a stressful time.  It is great entertainment. It made me laugh, and cry, and root for true love as Jake—who can’t seem to keep it in his pants—tries to get love and romance right. Some of the episodes were hilarious and some were intense and wrenching, but things always got better when Jake, and his family, ultimately saved the day.

Binge TV - Jake Doyle: Bad Boy with a Good Heart, the three tomatoesFollow Allan Hawco on Twitter and you’ll find he is nice guy. He conceived, co-produced, and starred in the “Republic of Doyle” from 2010 to 2014, so he is on to other things now. He bases his Take The Shot Productions in his beloved Newfoundland.  He is happily married to CBC journalist Carolyn Stokes (who appears as a newscaster in the show). And, based on interviews I have seen, he will blush (cringe) a little when he reads this article and roll his eyes, because he sort of doesn’t like being looked at like a sex symbol.

 Sorry, Allan, but Jake will do anything to save the ones he loves, especially the woman he adores, and that is so sexy!

I asked Barna William Donovan, PhD, of the Department of Communication at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., to share his insights into what makes Jake Doyle is so appealing—with and without his shirt. He is an expert on fan behavior, an encyclopedia of TV and movie knowledge, and author of several books on the topic, including: Blood, Guns, and Testosterone, Conspiracy Films, and The Asian Influence on Hollywood Action Films.

Here’s what Dr. Donovan had to say:

A.C.ROSE:  Jake Doyle is a private eye who hates guns, drives a retro GTO, wears a leather jacket, and won’t shoot if he doesn’t have to but is constantly beating guys up when they attack him or anyone around him. Does he have the appeal of a classic action hero?

BARNA WILLIAM DONOVAN: Jake Doyle is very much in the mold of the classic action hero. He might be quirky and flawed, might have a rocky relationship with the women in his life, but ultimately he is idealistic, brave, and a man of action when things become dangerous. While he might not enjoy violence, disliking guns, he also won’t back down from dangerous threats, especially when people he cares about need him. Like classic action heroes, he rises to the occasion when a hero is needed and gives everything he has to get a dangerous job done. Jake Doyle might seem rough around the edges, but under the swagger and the adolescent machismo he is an honorable hero who will rise to the occasion and help those who are in need and those who can’t get help from anyone else.

 As extreme as his actions may be, Jake walks without even thinking into the face of danger and tries to resolve the problem. And most of the time he does. Does this quality alone make up for his flaws?

 Jake’s unflinching heroism, and his willingness to charge into a dangerous situation, make him an extremely appealing hero and definitely makes up for his flaws. In fact, there is a certain retro charm about Jake Doyle because while he might often be rebellious and cocky and juvenile, he can also be an uncomplicated and idealistic hero in a moment when a hero is needed. This is very appealing in a time when so much of entertainment is focused on irony or moral ambiguity and heroes we sometimes can’t distinguish from villains. Jake might have his surface flaws, but at his core he has a very solid moral compass.

Jake starts out kind of a classic problem child, but throughout the series he matures when it comes to women. He manages to attract the love of a doctor, lawyer, and police sergeant—all strong women with responsible positions of authority. Is this a case of opposites attract—or all they actually more like Jake then we know? 

 Jake, just like action heroes since the late 60s, still butts heads with authority figures and bureaucracy, yet he respects strong women more than many of his classic predecessors. He doesn’t seem to be threatened by strong women and he does not brood over the way his rightful authority has been undercut by women’s gains in the professional world. Nevertheless, he still has plenty of friction with those strong women because he is very much an immature man, an overgrown problem child. Since he is not angry at women, his immaturity in a way can even be attractive to strong women who might want to tame him. The immaturity might be seen by women as his “edge,” his sense of danger, unpredictability, and excitement.

It is revealed that his mother died when he was 12-years-old and that he wants to sleep with every woman he meets and cannot form healthy attachments. 

The immaturity rooted in the loss of his mother might actually trigger a maternal instinct in women, a need to help him heal and grow. Previous fan scholarship has shown that women tend to like male characters who have been hurt, who, underneath the edge and swagger and machismo, have suffered and who need to heal from their emotional scars. In romance novels, many gruff, angry, or immature men have once been hurt and they just need the love of a woman to help them heal and grow. In the action film genre, audience and box-office research has shown that suffering male heroes, say heroes like Rambo or Rocky and many of the other characters Sylvester Stallone always specialized in, always had a large female following. These characters, always suffering immense punishment and torture, elicited a nurturing, maternal response from women viewers.

But he is also always getting into trouble. Why do those women (especially his true love, Sergeant Leslie Bennett) find this so attractive—or are they just putting up with his flaws because they love him?

 While flawed and having a penchant to get in trouble and antagonize authority, Jake is also a very exciting fantasy figure for women. On the one hand, women can find it exciting to try and tame the bad boy. In romance novels one can often see this taming aspect to the story. It always takes the strong will and love of one incredible woman to eventually get the rebellious male under control. On the other hand, since most of Jake’s lovers are professionals, working in law or medicine, they might find Jake appealing because he can show the sort of disdain for rules and bureaucracy that they never would. Someone stifled by that professional world might be drawn to a rebel who would never hesitate to rock the boat and defy the rules. Jake’s very job as a private investigator defines him as the life-long outsider from the white-collar world of regulations and structure. He works on his own terms, makes his own rules, and always lives life as he chooses.

Jake also has a strong fathering instinct.  He demonstrates it for his young niece, and another character who surfaces. He definitely wants to make babies with Leslie.  How does this allure women?

Anthropological research has repeatedly shown that women are ultimately attracted to men who have the most potential to be good fathers. There is an obvious evolutionary advantage to this. The species needs to be propagated and a woman would want to have her children fathered by men who will be able to best protect and nurture those children. So Jake’s strong fathering instinct indicates that he will be a good parent. His bravery and idealism and his willingness to do anything for his family also promises that he will always take care of his children.

Jake and Leslie get involved in the first season, then Jake screws it up, and she ditches him. They go back and forth for six seasons.  We so want them to work and we cling to their story, waiting for good to come. Why does television torture lovers?

Ultimately, good drama needs conflict for it to thrive and be interesting. Drama itself can’t exist without conflict. “The Republic of Doyle,” while always having a crime of some sort at the center of each episode, is ultimately a character-driven show and the relationships between the characters are more important than the intricacies of the crime stories. If a TV show foregrounds the romantic relationships of characters, it needs to put plenty of obstacles in the way of characters searching for a happily-ever-after ending. And in romantic stories, the happily-ever-after is not even the most interesting part of the story. The path to happily-ever-after is what excites audiences the most. Having romantic couples find happiness too easily would be as dull as an action hero who is able to defeat the villains without any struggle or any setback. So having Jake and Leslie be attracted to each other, allowing them to actually have sex but then breaking them up again and keeping them from having a relationship, helps keep the viewers in suspense, it makes them long for the couple to hopefully get back together at some point.

What is it about the longing between the characters—the desire for each other, but the inability for them to really get or stay together—that hooks women?

There is a saying in fan studies that women are always interested in the “ships”: in relationships and friendships. I think a show like “The Republic of Doyle” would have a large female viewership precisely because there is more of an emphasis on the characters and their relationships than on the intricacies of the crimes. Most women want to follow how the characters interact, fall in love, break up, and have all types of personal crises and complications.

One of Jake’s Achilles heels is Leslie. She is always just out of his grasp.  How does a broken heart serve to endear us to the hero, and move the story along?

A broken heart helps make a tough guy more vulnerable and, in turn, more endearing to women. It helps tone down some of the hardness of a male character and makes him more approachable. Plus, a male character who suffered a broken heart helps elicit a maternal, nurturing reaction in a woman. Furthermore, since Jake’s heartbreak and emotional hardships are an ongoing part of the story, and since his relationship with Leslie is something that keeps changing and complicating throughout the series, it gives the entire series more of a realistic feel. Unlike traditional cop shows in the past, “The Republic of Doyle” does not have an episodic, stand-alone feel. Watching the show, we get the sense that this character is constantly evolving and growing because of what happened to him in past episodes. In such classic private eye shows as the “The Rockford Files” or “Magnum, P.I.” the audience did not so much get the sense that these characters were ever affected by their experiences past a certain episode.

Jake’s relationship with his dad, Malachy Doyle, is a series of comic reactions and retorts. Yet they love each other and there is a hugely strong family component, with members being very protective of each other. What kind of warmth or sense of connection does this impart to viewers?

While action films and TV shows have had their very large collection of loners who exist on the fringes of society, who rely on no one but themselves, men who can get along in groups and maintain strong family bonds are equally attractive. To female viewers these group and family-oriented heroes are actually more attractive than the lone wolves. So while Jake might defy authority, he does have a very strong bond to his family. He might bicker with his father and be exasperated by his niece and have problems with his brother, but he is ultimately very protective of that family and they all know there is nothing he won’t do for them.

What makes Jake so relatable and loveable?

 Jake will always rise to the occasion and do the right thing when it is required and he is a character whose lack of social graces makes him more relatable for the viewer. Because while he might often be immature or rude or cocky, he is at the same time capable of the sort of heroism most people would never have the nerve to attempt. He is a character with few internal restraints; he says and does almost everything on impulse. However, since his moral compass is always correct, the audience can forgive him for the abrasiveness his impulsive nature creates.

Allan Hawco, the actor who plays Jake Doyle, is very attractive. And he takes off his shirt every once and a while and this not an unpleasant thing to see. If he wasn’t so handsome and appealing, do you think women would allow Jake so much slack for his flaws?

Women probably would not cut him as much slack for his flaws would he not be so good looking. Psychologists tell us that as much as we would like to believe otherwise, looks are very important when we make judgments about people. Attractive people are always judged as being more interesting, smarter, more competent, and more compelling. We are willing to give good looking people the benefit of the doubt more often. However, I would also add that with Jake Doyle, and as he is embodied by Allan Hawco, there is a certain type of physical attractiveness that allows him to get away with his childish immaturity. Jake/Hawco, in my opinion, has a sort of approachable, every-man attractiveness. The very character of Doyle is gritty and blue collar; while good looking, he is still real-looking. He is not built like Arnold Schwarzenegger and he does not have a James Bond-like larger-than-life aura of glamour around him. If he did, then he would be harder to forgive. There would be something unapproachable and intimidating about him if he would exude more glamour.

Follow Dr. Donovan on Twitter or visit his blog.

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