the Remasculation Film: Themes and Variations
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 09:49 by Adam Patrick Miller
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a discourse of masculinity crisis precipitated the appearance of a number of what Susan Jeffords describes as “rearticulations of screen masculinity,” which influenced the production of a group films whose narrative diegeses reaffirmed the heteronormative, hypermasculine façade onscreen. These films are identified and defined in this dissertation as remasculation pictures, or narratives that showcase the hero’s oscillation between two oppositional expressions of screen masculinity. In the rhetoric of the remasculation film, the protagonist’s emasculation initiates a quest to remasculate by reaffirming the dominance and authority of the hypermasculine archetype. Further, in a few key performances (Red River , The Searchers , The Wings of Eagles ), John Wayne exemplifies the ultra-conservative values, imposing physicality, staunch heterosexuality, and capability of this heteronormative, hypermasculine archetype. However, Wayne’s image has been employed only as an exemplification of this façade, since this project does not suggest that the remasculation hero’s victory marks his appropriation of Wayne’s masculinity, only the archetype with which many of his performances have been associated. The remasculation picture is part of a film cluster, and not a genre because films of this category are primarily linked by similarities in narrative structure and their glorification of this hypermasculine figure. Further, to illustrate some of the themes of the remasculation picture, this dissertation features three chapters that focus on as many distinct expressions of the remasculation formula. The first of these chapters draws on Unforgiven (1992) and Law Abiding Citizen (2010) to furnish a discussion of judicial emasculation and remasculatory vigilantism. The second case study chapter looks at remasculation through pugilism with an examination of Payback (1999) and Get Carter (2000), while the final section focuses only on The Company Men (2010) to illustrate emasculative redundancy and the reacquisition of purpose as the final variation discussed in this project. While films of the remasculation cluster glorify the hypermasculine image, one cannot assume that the filmmakers responsible for their production aim to either disseminate ultra-conservative values or impose them on the audience. Similarly, the relative popularity of remasculation films does not necessarily indicate the presence of an audience seeking narrative diegeses showcasing the reaffirming triumph of the hypermasculine man. The continued production of the remasculation picture signifies only the appearance of a trend in contemporary film that is attributable to the destabilization of the normative masculine image at the end of the twentieth century.