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1923's Brandon Sklenar Thinks Spencer's Warm Masculinity (And Mustache) Is The Key To His Popularity

There are a great many elements that make Taylor Sheridan's "1923" exceptional in the western genre. Chief among them is that it updates and reconfigures for contemporary tastes so many of the tropes found in iconic westerns like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" or "A Fistful of Dollars" without watering them down. The Montana ranching world of "1923" is just as ruthless and cruel as any of the worlds shown by Sergio Leone, but Sheridan's plots and dialog make the greed and power-hunger behind these cruelties more apparent and explicable without beating us over the head with dry analysis or speechifying. 

This also applies to how so many characters' relationships with each other and the world around them are portrayed. Perhaps the best example is Brandon Sklenar's Spencer Dutton. The last remaining child of deceased James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) is most definitely the strong and silent type that inevitably shows up in most westerns. But as we learn, his stoicism is rooted in the fact that he is deeply wounded and ultimately a vulnerable human being. Sklenar himself has commented on this, saying that there is something in his character that roughly approximates a boyish Clint Eastwood

That said, it probably doesn't hurt that Sklenar is insanely handsome. There are several moments in the series' first few episodes that have female characters swooning over Spencer's smoking good looks and mysterious persona. Again, though, Sklenar doesn't think that's the only thing behind his character's popularity.

Shirtless pics, sensitivity, and a 'stache

During an interview with Esquire, Brandon Sklenar was asked by writer Josh Rosenberg whether he had any idea just how big a hit Spencer Dutton had become on social media. "Are you aware of the reaction to your character on social media," asks Rosenberg, "all the shirtless fan edits of you?" As it turns out, Sklenar doesn't use social media that much, and therefore was largely unaware. Though he did say that some of his friends had clued him in. 

As for Rosenberg's question, a simple Twitter search will prove its validity. It's no surprise that social media is lit up with pics of a shirtless Spencer. Sklenar's response, however, is that he thinks there's a bit more to it than sheer good looks. "[Spencer] is just a really good example of masculinity and what it can be," he replied, "in terms of his emotional awareness and his ability to be loving, kind, and expressive. That's contributing to the response for sure."

The Season 1 finale of "1923" definitely hit this duality home. Spencer manages to toss Alexandra's ex-fiancé over the side of a passenger ship in a duel he's reluctantly agreed to, then, as he is forcibly separated from Alexandra. Then, a mere 20 minutes later in the episode, as he is rowed away from her in cuffs, he openly screams his love for her. Even the ship's captain is moved to comment on how obviously in love the two are. 

That Sklenar sees this kind of sensitivity as key to a modern audience's affection for his character is difficult to counter. Then there's the matter of that well-trimmed facial hair. "Yeah, that and the mustache," added Sklenar. "The mustache is a big part of it."