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Über dieses Buch

Traces changing concepts of masculinity in contemporary Hollywood films against a backdrop of political events, social developments, and popular American myths.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
In his article on Hollywood blockbusters, Thomas Elsaesser likens the production of a movie to a military campaign (“The Blockbuster” 17). For Elsaesser, the points of comparison are logistic complexity and finance. After all, only assault helicopters cost as much as the average blockbuster. Although Elsaesser does not elaborate on it, his comparison implies another truism about film, namely the fact that most movies are still decidedly masculine affairs. A large number of Hollywood films are written by and for men, and they are centrally concerned with the challenges and dilemmas of masculinity today.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Men in Trouble

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Lawlessness and Disorder: Cops and Other Serial Killers

Abstract
To viewers who think that cops and killers are on opposite sides, that cops chase killers and bring them to justice, a whole range of films proclaim: think again.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 3. Fathers, Crises, and Nations

Abstract
Since the 1980s, there has been a broad consensus in literature, albeit written from varying perspectives and with different agendas, that masculinity is in “crisis.”1 Socially, this crisis manifests itself as a challenge to men’s absolute dominance of the workplace; culturally, it is often played out in the domestic realm. Reading the vast literature on the subject is like walking in a hall of funhouse mirrors. Upon entering the realm of cultural representation, a social diagnosis—the crisis of masculinity— metamorphoses into a crisis of fatherhood.2 In this new guise, it is propelled to prominence by a plethora of scholarly works, social movements, and cultural narratives, Hollywood cinema being the most conspicuous among them. From this lofty platform, the crisis of fatherhood is effortlessly launched into the realm of politics, where it morphs yet again—into a crisis of the family.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 4. Cowboys, Myths, and Audiences

Abstract
Classic Westerns are America’s most enduring mythical genre. They show us “a heroically decent America” (Marcus 211), a world whose heroes—cowboys, gunslingers, sheriffs, prospectors, trappers, ranchers, buffalo hunters, bullwhackers, mountain men, rodeo riders, and homesteaders—are white American Protestant males, “a masculine world where men were men and women—on the rare occasions they appeared—seemed to like it that way” (Frayling xiv). All cowboy literature and films refer to and, on occasion, deviate from this blueprint. Not all fictional cowboys are Protestant white males. There are black cowboys,1 Jewish cowboys (see Raboy; Rischin and Livingston), Native American cowboys (Savage 94–95), and queer cowboys (Packard), even—although considerably more rare—the occasional woman making her way across the Plains.2 And of course, not all Westerns are American. There are, most famously, Spaghetti Westerns (defiantly called “Macaroni Westerns” in Italy), but also Sauerkraut Westerns from Germany, Paella Westerns from Spain, Camembert Westerns from France, Chop Suey Westerns from Hong Kong, Curry Westerns from India, and “Borscht Westerns” from Russia (Frayling xix). In spite of such foreign interlopers, the American Western still enjoys pride of place as the Western. Rare is the critic who, like Christopher Frayling, attempts to integrate it into the international scene (as the “Hamburger Western,” with “John Wayne representing the pure beef variety,” Frayling xix). The myth of the Western does not lend itself to such diversification.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Real Men?

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. Superheroes, Leadership, And the War on Terror

Abstract
Redeemer films, that is, films about superheroes and saviors who risk their lives for the sake of a city, a nation, or all of humankind (see Vera and Gordon 34), can easily be read within the context of contemporary terrorism.1 Several films discussed here contain explicit references to the attacks of 9/11 and the war on terror. Others comment on the events in an indirect fashion. But even films that are not concerned with the specifics of Islamist extremism influence our perception of contemporary politics. Superhero films demonstrate effective and inappropriate responses to a crisis. They model leadership styles and visualize the proper relation between the leader and his people and between the individual and his community. Finally, they define notions of sacrifice and service and explore the possibility of agency against a backdrop of fate and determination.2
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 6. Spies, Paranoia, and Torture

Abstract
Paranoia is not a Bush-era invention. And yet, the days after September 11, 2001, the constant dread of further attacks, be they hijackings or anthrax poisoning, were a high point of paranoia in American history. It was a time when, as Jane Mayer describes, the armored motorcade that chauffeured Vice President Cheney to his office contained a gas mask along with a biochemical survival suit and was accompanied by a medical doctor (5).1 The paranoia that gripped the government also affected American citizens, who were called upon to participate in the war on terror through constant vigilance. “Report all suspicious activity” became a refrain that accompanied all public activities. It was a time when everyday objects such as backpacks, phones, or packages could be perceived as potential weapons of terror (see Bratich 142).
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 7. Soldiers from World War II to Iraq

Abstract
War films are history films. They shape our understanding of the past and are a vivid testimony to the politics of the present. In other words, every era has the war films it needs and deserves. For example, Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Casualties of War (1989), all products of the 1980s, are marked by the American defeat in Vietnam. In contrast, the 1990s initiated a revival of good-war narratives evidenced by the renewed popularity of World War II topics in films such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001), The Windtalkers (2002), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006).
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

New Men?

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Rogues, Race, and hegemony

Abstract
Adventure films project colonial fantasies and offer models of how to relate to other races, other classes, and the other gender.1 Traditionally set in foreign lands or in the distant past, adventure films are ideally positioned to negotiate contemporary problems in veiled form. In other words, they use the relation of the hero to his many “Others” to speak to the concerns of a multiethnic society fraught with racial and class conflict. As Waller points out, “today, at least one-third of Americans do not trace their origins to Europe… non-white minority groups are projected to surpass whites to become, collectively, the numerical majority of the U.S. population by the middle of the twenty-first century” (7). This situation is even more pronounced in LA, home of the Hollywood dream machine. Here, 100 languages are spoken in the public school system, and the four major racial minorities make up more than 60 percent of the population (Waller 44).
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 9. Lovers: Men, Women, and Gender Equality

Abstract
Romantic comedies are ideally positioned to explore changes in the relation between the sexes. Amid an atmosphere of laughter and gaiety, they test the flexibility of traditional gender hierarchies, ponder the compatibility of professional success and emotional fulfillment, and seek to police the boundary between intimacy and violence.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 10. Losers, meritocracy, and Identification

Abstract
During the Clinton and Bush era, there has been considerable cinematic interest in the most hopeless, wretched, and pathetic type of male: the loser. Some actors (Adam Sandier, William H. Macy, Christian Slater, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell) have made their careers playing the type. Renowned writers and filmmakers, most notably Judd Apatow and the Coen brothers, have created a series of dolts, from the lead character in Barton Fink (1991, John Turturro) and the Dude in The Big Lebowski (1998, Jeff Bridges) to Everett McGill (George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000) and Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) in the aptly named The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). The Coen brothers’ Academy Award-winning Fargo (1996) practically teems with useless men (Jerry Lundegaard, Carl Showalter, and the father-in-law Wade, played by Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Harve Presnell, respectively; see Tyree and Walters 63–65). The loser may be a “niche”-character rather than a dominant type. But he certainly does get noticed, partly because he stands in the greatest imaginable contrast to the dominant film hero of earlier ages, such as the Reaganite tough-guy warrior heroes Rambo, Rocky, Indiana Jones, Robocop, Dirty Harry, and virtually every role Schwarzenegger ever played (Jeffords, Hard Bodies 19).
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Chapter 11. Conclusion

Abstract
Imagine, if you will, the many different types of men who have populated this study lined up in a military roll-call. Walking past the rank and file, we first notice those in nonattendance. Few and far between, for example, are the “good” men that the Marine Corps is apparently also looking for—truly and unswervingly decent, principled, moral men. Cops have moved into the ethical neighborhood of criminals. Fathers need a global crisis to take care of—or even notice—their offspring. Cowboys no longer live in a mythical past in which violence served the pursuit of truth, justice, and Manifest Destiny. The masculinity of superheroes, spies, and rogues is not unequivocal but multifaceted. They confront us with a confusing array of split personalities (Neo and Mr. Anderson, Spider-Man and Peter Parker, ores and elves), doubles (Boromir and Aragorn, Gollum and Frodo), masks (worn by superheroes, spies, and rogues), and performances (enacted by rogues and lovers). The reassuring simplicity of male perfection, if indeed it still exists, has moved from spirit to body; it is now quite normal to see ethically stunted men perform physically dazzling feats. Even as viewers struggle to make sense of these characters’ inner workings, they are entertained by watching them jump from cranes (Bond in Casino Royale), emerge from the belly of an alien with three hand grenade pins but no grenades (Ray in War of the Worlds), or dispatch orcs, gladiators, gangsters, Mobsters, enemy soldiers, suit-and-tie-clad computer programs, and countless other bad guys.
Susanne Kord, Elisabeth Krimmer

Backmatter

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