25 Inimitable Men 1/25
Chuck Bartowski (Chuck)
We all have that one TV character we’ll love the end of the time — the one we jokingly tell our significant other they should be more like. The one who’s truly ideal. You can’t not fall in love with Chuck Bartowski. When someone shows you so much of their heart and simultaneously loves Star Wars, it’s a done deal. Am I right, ladies? But in all seriousness, there are a number of things that have made Chuck a noteworthy, noble character, and my all-time favorite TV male. Chuck’s integrity, openness, and empathy effortlessly weaved into an unapologetic nerd makes him indescribably special. As Sarah Walker once said: “I love Chuck Bartowski and I don’t know what to do about it.” Same, Sarah. Same.
Chuck’s integrity is unparalleled — the sheer, steadfast honor he desperately tries to keep is not only rare in the world of television, but in real life. And though a spy has a number of secrets that must be kept, as the audience, we were often given the chance to see that hiding the truth from his loved ones heavily weighs him down. Sometimes, even though a person is forced into silence, understanding that it doesn’t come easy to them is definite proof of where their heart actually stands. And Chuck Bartowski is in every sense of the word, an honest man. (He’s also a terrible liar, but that’s an essay for another time.) Chuck’s integrity, the innate need to be upfront with those he cares for often played a crucial role in how he viewed others. While the desire to see people as they could be sometimes got him into trouble, it also allowed his family and friends to see the best in themselves. The belief that people deserve his honestly broke through the toughest walls inspiring characters to open up their hearts to something much more.
Much like Chuck’s integrity, his openness contributed profoundly to impacting the lives around him, mainly his relationships with those closest to him. Chuck’s choice to often speak his mind directly correlates with his integrity that’s allowed so many of his loved ones to feel comfortable around him. In earlier seasons, Chuck was under the impression that his emotions jeopardized missions and put his friends in harm’s way, but the reality is that his emotions not only differentiated him from other spies, but a great majority of people. People aren’t often praised for being in sync with their emotions, but thankfully with Chuck, it was one of the most prominent traits people admired him for. And those emotions, the choice to be open with everything he’s felt gave those around him the platform to be more vulnerable and honest. Silence was never Chuck’s forte and that’s made him rare — even when he was told that spies are supposed to be ambiguous, stern, and misleading, no matter how hard he tried, Chuck felt wrong behaving the way a “typical spy” would. He’s managed to break every rule a spy shouldn’t by not only falling in love, but remaining steadfast to his beliefs that honesty and sincerity should be a constant in a person’s life.
On top of his sincerity and openness, Chuck’s empathy has resonated massively with characters and by extension, viewers. The choice to appreciate people as they are and the cultivating need to understand whatever they tell him has easily spoken volumes. It’s a trait not many possess and it’s a trait not many hold onto. Sometimes, even when a person is empathetic, there’s a need to conceal it, a need to hold it in, because somehow nonchalance is far more appealing than vulnerability. (I mean let’s be real, he was even empathetic towards villains like Karl Stromberg, 3×02 “Chuck Verses the Three Words. And later, Volkov.) When people chose to hide behind sarcasm and apathy, Chuck Bartowski chose kindness and empathy. Chuck chose to give into his emotions using them to understand people better while tirelessly uplifting them in every area of their lives.
In retrospect, one of the essential traits that have made Chuck undeniably honorable is the choices he’s made in spite of the hardships he’s endured as a child. Often times, people darken their hearts when they’ve endured the kind of abandonment that Ellie and Chuck faced. But both Bartowski siblings have strived to live a life filled with kindness. They’ve extended their hands towards helping those in need — they’ve given without expecting a thing in return. Here’s the thing, Chuck has had moments of sarcasm, anger, and frustration, but consciously making the choice to be someone others can rely on is an admirable characteristic that comes from the desire to ensure that people don’t feel the type of pain abandonment has left on him. And that innate kindness goes hand in hand with his ability to always forgive. Chuck’s choice to later understand why his parents did what they did and thereby, forgive them is the ultimate showcase of how vast the love in his heart is. No matter how much trauma and heartache he’s faced, the choice to open his heart to all is admirable on all fronts. It takes great courage to be vulnerable with those who’ve hurt us, but it takes even more courage and love to be able to forgive in lieu of life long resentment. The choice to understand that people are flawed but deserve to be loved in spite of those flaws, allows for people to want to better themselves. We are who we are because of the choices we make and Chuck Bartowski has tirelessly done everything in his power to make sure he bares the love that resides within him.
Finally, while Chuck is pretty flippin’ great, we’ve gotta give credit to the unapologetic nerd we’ve fallen in love with. The ridiculous, sincere geek who chooses to motivate his friends by humming the “Imperial March”. And while us nerds have found a kindred spirit through him, what’s often been the most unique aspect of his characterization is Chuck’s steadfast loyalty to the nerd within. It doesn’t matter if his loved ones didn’t understand where he was coming from because the loyalty to himself and thereby, all the nerds in the world, created a safe place for escape. Due to the fact that Chuck’s so in tune with his likes and dislikes, it allows him to support people in their avocations — their choices. It allows those around him to understand that they will be appreciated just as they are even if they aren’t always on the same page. I’ve always admired the fact that though he’s wanted to be better for Sarah and his family, he’s never once felt the need to stop appreciating the things they didn’t understand. He didn’t choose to abandon Star Wars because it was perceived as geeky or weird, but rather, he grew loving those things that meant a great deal to him while being open to the possibility of other diversions.
Now while the notes above make Chuck Bartowski sound like the ultimate perfect man, he isn’t without flaws. And thankfully so as he wouldn’t be human if he weren’t flawed. Chuck’s impulses have often gotten him into trouble showcasing the fact that though our intentions may be in the right place, acting on impulse isn’t always the best thing we can do. He also needs to lay off the cheese balls — control, man. (Lol!) And sometimes, he could get a little carried away, be a bit too intense for some, but the reality is that as human beings, we’ll always be too much or too little for the world, and that’s okay. We aren’t here to please the world, but if Chuck Bartowski has done one thing, he’s showcased the importance of being ourselves. We shouldn’t be forced to change just to please the world because those who love us won’t care as long as we are the very best, always growing, most noble versions of ourselves.
Finally, a character is nothing but writing on a page without the respected actor who brings him to life, and Zachary Levi’s work as Chuck Bartowski is unprecedented. Levi embodied the character with akin sincerity that’s given colossal life to the spoken words. Levi’s authentic, heartfelt portrayal has allowed us to see the profound layers which make Chuck inimitable. Levi’s nuanced understanding of the character cobbled with the full range of emotions he’s played him with has illuminated the vast capacity of compassion that resides within Chuck. And it’s that very compassion that’s allowed us to form a profound attachment to the character. A hearty round of applause for Zachary Levi’s impeccably masterful portrayal. I know I speak on behalf of many when I say we are grateful.
Chuck Bartowski is aces. There’s no perfect way to describe a man with such fervency and adoration bursting from within him. There’s no perfect way to paint the therapeutic impact his ridiculous antics have had from laughing too hard. And there’s most certainly no perfect way to describe the admirable sincerity in which he’s lived every moment with. There’s immense, irrevocable bravery in openness and sincerity. It takes great courage to have empathy in cruel world. And Chuck Bartowski is one of the bravest men in TV history. You know those characters words will never do justice? The ones you need to force yourself not to go on and on about because you can’t stop? The ones that are just so special, if you loved them less, you might be able to talk about it more? Chuck Bartowski is one of those characters.
It’s in the way he always stood up for Morgan. It’s in the way he fought ceaselessly to protect his sister and brother-in-law. It’s in the way he saw softness in Casey. And it’s the way he loved Sarah through everything. Chuck’s inability to give up on people is often resorted me to tears. He loved so deeply and so sincerely that a woman with walls higher than the moon brought them down to find serenity with him. He saw people not as they were, but as the very best versions of themselves even as they were buried beyond the stoic facades shown to the rest of the world. His sincerity gave people the platform to come undone as they needed to. His sincerity brought them home to a place where they could always laugh, break bread, and heal. Aces. He’s aces — an inspiration to all.
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