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Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush

Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush

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    Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush
    Book Description:

    A struggle between narcissistic and masochistic modes of manhood defined Hollywood masculinity in the period between the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. David Greven's contention is that a profound shift in representation occurred during the early 1990s when Hollywood was transformed by an explosion of films that foregrounded non-normative gendered identity and sexualities. In the years that have followed, popular cinema has either emulated or evaded the representational strategies of this era, especially in terms of gender and sexuality.

    One major focus of this study is that, in a great deal of the criticism in both the fields of film theory and queer theory, masochism has been positively cast as a form of male sexuality that resists the structures of normative power, while narcissism has been negatively cast as either a regressive sexuality or the bastion of white male privilege. Greven argues that narcissism is a potentially radical mode of male sexuality that can defy normative codes and categories of gender, whereas masochism, far from being radical, has emerged as the default mode of a traditional normative masculinity. This study combines approaches from a variety of disciplines-psychoanalysis, queer theory, American studies, men's studies, and film theory-as it offers fresh readings of several important films of the past twenty years, including Casualties of War, The Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, The Passion of the Christ, Auto Focus, and Brokeback Mountain.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79350-7
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION When Hollywood Masculinity Became Self-Aware
    (pp. 1-11)

    During a particularly suspenseful sequence in Wolfgang Petersen’s In the Line of Fire (1993), Clint Eastwood, playing Frank Horrigan, a Secret Service agent haunted by his failure to prevent JFK’s assassination, races across rooftops in pursuit of John Malkovich’s wily, manipulative would-be presidential assassin, Mitch Leary. Part of the joke and the pathos here is that, at sixty-three years old, Eastwood is past these heroics, yet he valiantly pushes forward, sprinting over roof after roof, Horrigan’s young partner Al (Dylan McDermott) trailing behind. Malkovich leaps across one last great gulf; Eastwood follows suit, but he can’t quite make it, hanging...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush
    (pp. 12-51)

    Lasse Hallström’s slight and enjoyable 2005 film Casanova, starring the late Heath Ledger as the titular legendary seducer and set in 1753 Venice, contains a scene that metonymically represents the shifts in the Bush-to-Bush representation of masculinity. In one typically antic, sitcom-like moment during a masked ball, Casanova sits at a banquet table attempting to wax eloquent before an assemblage of highborn dignitaries, including the freethinking, feminist activist he loves and her mother. Unbeknownst to them, a rapacious young woman (Casanova’s fiancée) beneath the table proceeds to gratify Casanova orally. As Hallström stages the scene, the primary focus is on...

  6. CHAPTER TWO An Ill-Fated Bacchanal: Casualties of War and the Horror of the Homosocial
    (pp. 52-84)

    In the late 1970s, difficult and disturbing films about the Vietnam War such as Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978) struck a cord with audiences and critics. These films challenged viewers to confront the horrors of an appallingly ill-conceived war. (Indeed, it was widely reported at the time that many people walked out of Cimino’s film, finding several scenes too intense.) In the Reagan era of the early 1980s, the genre mutated into cartoonish fare such as the jingoistic Rambo films (which, given Rambo’s 2008 comeback, remain relevant), starring Sylvester Stallone as an ex-vet who rescues the apparently multitudinous number...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Male Medusas and Female Heroes: Fetishism and Ambivalence in The Silence of the Lambs
    (pp. 85-124)

    For Freud, the universal male trauma occurs in infancy when the male child recognizes that the mother does not possess a penis, a terrifying realization the shock of which inheres in the enforced recognition that a being so immense and immensely powerful can be “lacking” the organ in which the little boy has invested so much of his psychic energies.¹ Later in life, the male may endow parts of women’s bodies (noses, feet) or that which adorns their bodies (fur, shoes) with a tremendous power. The male investment in these spatialized aspects of women can be described as “fetishism,” or...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Hollywood Man Date: Split Masculinity and the Double-Protagonist Film
    (pp. 125-159)

    Though actively discussed concepts in psychoanalytic, queer, and film theory circles, narcissism and masochism remain largely segregated in these critical discussions, largely used as competing ways of thinking about the spectator-protagonist relationship. To recapitulate the thesis of this book, in representations of manhood in Hollywood film from the late 1980s to the present, narcissism and masochism emerge as a binaristic relation within the diegetic world of the film, as several key films may be described as a struggle between a narcissistic and a masochistic mode of male identity. Very often, this agon, or contest, is represented either thematically or through...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Destroying Something Beautiful: Narcissism, Male Violence, and the Homosocial in Fight Club
    (pp. 160-175)

    A film that struck a resonant chord with audiences, especially young men, David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999) is one of the defining films of the Clinton era, a grimy-grandiose pageant of several contemporary obsessions, consumerism, terrorism, and shifting codes of masculinity chief among them. The film is often noted for its nihilistic view of American culture, yet it has a sincere and heartfelt agenda. It seeks to repair the damaged psyches of young American men of the present by enacting a return to primitive and purgative codes of male violence. If a film like Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes (1998)...

  10. CHAPTER SIX “Am I Blue?” Vin Diesel and Multiracial Male Sexuality
    (pp. 176-203)

    Multiracial, drolly sexy, so jaded that his irony seems like an effort at social engagement, a void with attitude, a hunk with no definitive sexual orientation, an object of multivalent desire, all of his virtues negative virtues—his charisma coming from a lack of charismatic talent, his beauty from the counterintuitively mobile effect of his sleepy wit on his placidly plug-ugly face, his sexiness from his indifference to sexuality—as blank as his shined-up Riddick eyes, Vin Diesel is the embodiment of postmodern manhood: postrace, postgay, posteverything. His slightly sluggish, drugged voice suggests Brando on Novocain, but with an undercurrent...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Devil Wears Abjection: The Passion of the Christ
    (pp. 204-217)

    The figure of Jesus represents an infinite number of things to vast numbers of people, but for the purposes of this study, our focus will be on Jesus, as depicted in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, as the supreme example of the male masochist.

    In his 1941 study Masochism in Sex and Society, Theodor Reik writes:

    A psychoanalytic investigation of martyrdom would be able to prove the importance of having witnesses not only of one’s suffering but of one’s perseverance as well. [In the classic accounts, the martyr’s own] humiliation and disgrace were displayed. . ....

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Narcissus Transfigured: Brokeback Mountain
    (pp. 218-240)

    The extraordinary rise of the double-protagonist film in Hollywood from the first Bush presidency in 1989 to 2009 has demanded a new understanding of self and other in mainstream film, a project undertaken by this study as a whole. In Classic Hollywood, the protagonist—white, male, heterosexual—largely understood his struggle as one between Woman, on the one hand, and the racial/sexual Other, on the other hand. But in Bush-to-Bush films, this relation has changed. Suddenly, normative manhood’s primary struggle is against another version of itself—an inherently narcissistic relation. Self can no longer be understood as total, realized, complete;...

  13. EPILOGUE The Reign of Masochism
    (pp. 241-246)

    The narcissistic-masochistic split that has defined Hollywood masculinity from Bush to Bush continues to do so well into the waning days of the period and the dawning days of a new era. It spans numerous genres; masculinity’s anxieties know no borders.

    The double-protagonist film continues its rise—as of this writing, 2007 films such as American Gangster, We Own the Night, and 3:10 to Yuma all rely on a fraught, conflicted relationship between two male stars. The ABC television series Lost suggests that its chief male characters, blond, narcissistic Sawyer and dark, masochistic Jack, together would make one man (to...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 247-272)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-284)
  16. Index
    (pp. 285-297)