White masculinity in crisis in Hollywood's fin de millennium cinema

Deakin, PP ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5395-2775 2019, White masculinity in crisis in Hollywood's fin de millennium cinema , Lexington.

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Abstract

At the turn of the millennium, cultural and gender commentators were announcing that an apocalypse was under way. Men were changing. Patriarchy was crumbling. Masculinity, in short, was in crisis. Inaugurating a collective of what I would like to label here, “white masculinity in crisis movies”, this monograph contends that Hollywood cinema also had its own relationship to the apparent millennial crisis in masculinity. It was a relationship that was in fact so prevalent and extensive, that it came to the tune of twenty-five “crisis” titles all released in that epochal fin de millennium moment; each film replicating the terms of wider cultural discourse, each with a representational concern with the so-called crisis and the apparent “masculine malaise”. Further, this monograph also proposes that a dichotomous structure underpinned this cinema in which two altering identity complexes are voiced. On the one side, there is a presence that is distinctly “feminine”; where the “fallen man” is presented as a victim of consumerism, so called “image cultures”, white-collar ascendancy, and the apparent successes of feminism. Alongside this, the other identity – an articulation which vitally is (re)-presented as the preferred model – is presented as “deeply masculine” in the so-called traditional sense; he is rather anarchic, representative only of blue-collar values, is often hyper-sexual, and has a violently (self-)destructive presence. What also makes this cinema significant of course is that often these identity complexes would spill from the same characterisation. The canon seemed to be propositioning that men are somehow caught in the crossroads of masculine re-evaluation and renewal. This monograph will seek to investigate these representations, and in doing so, will attempt to place them in a broader matrix of American socio-cultural history. From visceral male anger spectacles like Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), Payback (Brian Helgeland, 1999) and American Psycho (Mary Har- ron, 2000); to New Man white-collar bashing in Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999), The Matrix (Wachowski’s, 1999) and American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999); to a proposition of the deadening effect/impossibility of “gender becoming” in films like Kimberley Pierce’s Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999), Joel Schumacher’s Flawless (1999) and Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), this cine- ma seemed to be in direct dialogue with a larger, and vitally, as we shall see, elegiac, commentary on masculinity-in-crisis. This examination will seek in short to investigate both the movies and their seemingly evocative proposi- tions in this canon. By marking key distinctions and comparisons between “masculinity-as- experienced” in socio-cultural and historical readings and “masculinity-as- represented” in textual approaches to the films and their surrounding para- phernalia, this work also engages with both the real and reel at the fin de millennium moment. Working more broadly here in the conversations surrounding the masculinity in crisis issue in general, this examination also aims to demonstrate why the concept of a single, fixed and unified, lest “authentic”, definition of masculinity may be untenable, and why perhaps, following that, this cinema struggled to avoid essentialism, irony and self-parody in its requisite promises of redemption. What were the origins of the crisis, and how discerning or even “authen- tic” was it? Did this cinema help create, propel or sooth the crisis, and how did the representation of “schizophrenic” or “bipolar” masculinity speak to the crisis and audiences in general? Why were these identities re-presented by Hollywood at this time, and what if anything, can we learn from them? This examination seeks to provide answers to these vital questions.

Item Type: Book
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Publisher: Lexington
ISBN: 9781498585194
Depositing User: PP Deakin
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2019 16:42
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2019 16:42
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/52866

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