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Masculine Interests

Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Film

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Masculine Interests
    Book Description:

    Until Masculine Interests not much had been written about men "as men" in the cinema. Now Robert Lang considers how Hollywood articulates the eroticism that is intrinsic to identification between men. He considers masculinity in social and psychoanalytic terms, maintaining that a major function of the movies is to define different types of masculinity, and to either valorize or criticize these forms. Focusing on several films -- primarily The Lion King, The Most Dangerous Game, The Outlaw, Kiss Me Deadly, Midnight Cowboy, Innerspace, My Own Private Idaho, the Batman series, and Jerry Maguire -- Lang questions the way in which American culture distinguishes between homosexual and nonhomosexual forms of male bonding. In arguing for a much more complex recognition of the homosocial continuum, he contends that queer sexuality is far more present in American cinema than is usually acknowledged.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50543-7
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-13)

    In his memoir Screening History, Gore Vidal describes his childhood desire to be a twin, which he remembers experiencing when he watched The Prince and the Pauper for the first time.¹ The prince and the pauper were played by Billy and Bobby Mauch, identical twins who were the same age as Vidal, twelve: “I thought [they] were cute as a pair of bug’s ears, and I wished I were either one of them, one of them, mind you. I certainly did not want to be two of me.”² Although an only child, Vidal was not a lonely one; rather, he...

    (pp. 14-51)

    In his 1998 autobiography, Michael Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, proudly records that The Lion King (1994) would ultimately earn nearly $1 billion worldwide, “making it by far [Disney’s] most popular animated film and probably the most profitable film ever made.”¹ Oddly, considering this remarkable fact, Eisner shows no curiosity about why the film quickly became so successful, nor does his explanation offer much insight: The Lion King is “one of those magical films in which everything comes together,” he writes. “It was visually stunning. The story of a son trying to live up...

  6. 3 TO “HAVE KNOWN ECSTASY”: Hunting Men in The Most Dangerous Game
    (pp. 52-79)

    Since its beginnings as a commercial enterprise based on the concept of mass entertainment, the Hollywood film has put a girl in the picture because—as the director says in King Kong (1933), that famous movie about Hollywood filmmaking—the public “must have a pretty face to look at.” The dialogue in King Kong’s opening scene is in fact very explicit about the ways in which mainstream filmmaking practices seek to cash in on the dominant sexual ideology of the day. The conversation between Carl Denham, the film director, and Weston, the theatrical agent, goes as follows:

    Weston: You never...

    (pp. 80-120)

    Sixty years after it was made, The Outlaw is still described in film dictionaries as a notorious “sex western,” and always with a reference to Jane Russell’s bosom. And yet it is overwhelmingly obvious that the movie is scarcely about Russell’s bosom at all, in the sense that her character’s sexuality is integral to the plot. Rather, it is about the complications that arise when Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) falls in love with Billy the Kid (Jack Beutel), and Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) becomes jealous of the bond that develops between the two men. What Leonard Maltin describes as the...

  8. 5 LOOKING FOR THE “GREAT WHATSIT”: Kiss Me Deadly and Film Noir
    (pp. 121-139)

    There is a scene near the beginning of Kiss Me Deadly¹ in which the unconscious logic of the movie suddenly becomes clear to me, a logic that permeates much of film noir and explains in part what is so compelling about the film noir detective genre.

    Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) parks his car on a deserted city street late at night and gets out. As he starts walking, a man follows him. We get a shot of the man’s look, which indicates that Hammer is the man he has been waiting for.² When Hammer stops at a newsstand, the man...

    (pp. 140-179)

    The film opens on a blank, white screen, but on the sound track we hear, faintly at first, the unmistakable sounds of a movie western—horses galloping, guns firing, and cowboys and Indians whooping and yelling. The camera pulls back to reveal that the blank screen is literally that: a drive-in movie theater somewhere in Texas in the middle of the day. The sound of the western fades. A small boy, alone in the children’s playground at the foot of the huge screen, is rocking back and forth on a squeaky toy horse, while some real horses graze nearby. We...

  10. 7 INNERSPACE: A Spectacular Voyage to the Heart of Identity
    (pp. 180-205)

    In a 1974 newspaper article entitled, “When Boy Meets Boy, What’s a Girl to Do?” film critic Kathleen Carroll wondered, “Why, all of a sudden, does Hollywood seem so intensely interested in exploring man-to-man relationships? Not that movies haven’t done it before. We have had Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable in Boom Town, Sydney Poitier and Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones, and many more, but never so many movies on the subject at one time.” Citing Papillon, The Sting, Scarecrow, and Bang the Drum Slowly, among others, Carroll observed that “Hollywood seems to be leaning towards the idea, first...

  11. 8 BATMAN AND ROBIN: A Family Romance
    (pp. 206-242)

    Every hero has his “origins” story, and in Batman’s case the story of how Bruce Wayne was orphaned as a boy and how later he took up the secret identity of a masked crusader against crime is crucial in defining the hero. Since the Batman character’s first appearance in 1939, his writers have returned again and again, obsessively, to the shocking scene of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents.¹ Young Bruce and his parents had just seen a movie, and as they were walking home through the dark streets of Gotham City, they were attacked and shot. Bruce Wayne’s childhood...

    (pp. 243-262)

    In 1990, writing in the New York Times, Caryn James announced unequivocally that, “Today’s Yellow Brick Road Leads Straight to Hell.” The film that prompted her to lament “how far film makers have come from the road to Oz,” and that made her realize there was something that should be identified as “the new, subversive road movie,” was David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990). Unlike most film critics before her, James has a very definite notion of what the (classic) road movie is:

    Films like The Wizard of Oz [1939] and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels [1941] defined the standard pattern...

  13. 10 “THE THINGS WE THINK AND DO NOT SAY”: Jerry Maguire and the Business of Personal Relationships
    (pp. 263-302)

    Jerry Maguire (1996) opens on an image of the world, as seen from outer space. We hear the voice of Jerry Maguire. It’s as if he’s talking just to us: “So, this is the world, and there are almost six billion people on it. When I was a kid, there were three. It’s hard to keep up.” The title of the film, superimposed on this image, grows rapidly smaller and dissolves into the earth, as if to draw the viewer from the global scale to the personal—to the very center of the universe we are entering, namely, the world...

    (pp. 303-306)

    I began this study by quoting from Gore Vidal’s memoir, Screening History, in which it occurs to Vidal that the only thing he ever really liked to do was go to the movies. It is of course in part my narcissism that makes me choose Vidal as a figure of identification, but for me the essay behind his memoir—which in a general way informs my assumptions and intentions, and which attempts to address more comprehensively the question Vidal broaches (and shortly answers, by adding: “Naturally, Sex and Art always took precedence over the cinema”)¹—is Freud’s Civilization and Its...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 307-352)
    (pp. 353-368)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 369-382)