Macho man ‘Reacher’ has fans across the political spectrum

Prime Video/Shutterstock

Macho man ‘Reacher’ has fans across the political spectrum

The fact that media attracts different viewers for different reasons is not a new concept.


Kira Deshler


Posted on Feb 22, 2024   Updated on Feb 22, 2024, 3:33 am CST

Decoding Fandom is a weekly column that dives deep into the world of fan culture and runs on Wednesdays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox. 

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He’s 6’5’’ and 250 pounds. He doesn’t talk much and prefers to use his fists to solve problems. He’s ex-military with an unshakable sense of justice. His name? Jack Reacher.

Author Lee Child first introduced the character in 1997, and there have been 28 books in the series since. Tom Cruise portrayed Reacher in a 2012 film and it’s sequel, but now there’s a new Reacher in town. On Amazon Prime’s Reacher, which concluded its second season earlier this year, the more authentically-sized Alan Ritchson takes a stab at the iconic character.

Considering Reacher’s traditionally masculine nature – including his penchant for violence – and his ties to the military, it’s not surprising the series has attracted fans in right-wing circles. On X, viewers with ‘MAGA’ affiliations in their bios profess their love for the show. On Truth Social, users celebrate Reacher’s violent retribution as an example of what Trump will do to the libs.

On YouTube, right-wing content creators describe Reacher as an F-U to ‘Woke Hollywood.’ Fans with this kind of worldview see the show as an antidote to the liberal pandering of series like Doctor Who. “It’s almost like doing the exact opposite of what the woke mob demands will leave you with happy fans,” one user commented. Another celebrated the fact that Reacher is “a real man.” An article on a right-wing entertainment site suggests Reacher is successful because audiences are tired of “handwringing heroes.”

Hearing this response from conservatives, you’d think Reacher wouldn’t appeal to those on the other side of the political spectrum, but that’s just not the case. Back on X, there are plenty of progressive users with phrases like “anti-racist” and “Free Palestine” in their bios who count themselves as fans of the show, including a number of women and LGBTQ folks. Reacher also has fans on Bluesky, a platform striving to be the liberal version of Truth Social.

Many of these fans have no love for the U.S. military, yet find the show a satisfying action romp in the bloated era of overly serious prestige TV. One of my mutuals on X, who first put the show on my radar, described it like this: ‘i like that the show doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is – biggest man who overcomes everything bc he is literally Big.” On Polygon, an entertainment and gaming site that leans left-of-center, Joshua Rivera argues that Reacher deserves seven seasons because it’s good, reliable fun.

On both sides of the spectrum, women find Reacher hot, and images of shirtless Ritchson abound. This is especially true on Tumblr, where gifs of Reacher’s pecs fill the #Reacher tag.

But not all fan responses to the show are of the horny variety. Some Tumblr users refer to Reacher’s BFF, Neagley (Maria Sten) – who doesn’t like to be touched – as an “asexual icon,” and others have claimed Reacher for the autistic community. (This dichotomy is to be expected on a platform that was once composed of equal parts porn and Judith Butler quotes.) As will all shows worth watching, Reacher has also inspired gay fanfiction, which makes up a significant portion of the Reacher tag on Archive of Our Own.

So yes, Reacher’s fans included liberal Swifties, K-pop stans, queer socialists, football-loving Mormons, MAGA patriots, and tag chasers. The fact that media attracts different viewers for different reasons is not a new concept. Those on the right feel Reacher aligns with their politics because it rejects liberal trends and endorses rugged individualism. Those on the left also find it entertaining, even if they don’t condone violence or the IRL actions of the military. 

Why it matters

Is it a good thing the show attracts such a wide audience? Is this an indication that true unity in America is possible? Probably not. But at least this reminds us that the best pop culture isn’t prescriptive, and that the media we consume is what we make of it.

Is Reacher an anti-woke hero or a lovable, noble ogre? That’s up to you to decide. 

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*First Published: Feb 22, 2024, 6:00 am CST

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