A Conversation for Masculinity in the Movies

Good to see the balance

Post 1


I was afraid, upon reading the blurb on the front page, that this piece would assert that most all movies require that the hero get a girl and that he somehow 'needs' her to be a complete man.

[Front Page Blurb: Masculinity in the Movies: Man, as seen on the silver screen, must, it seems, be in 'possession' of a woman to be truly whole - every Tarzan must have his Jane...]

I was pleased to see a much more balanced approach, even if I disagree with some phrases like: "... every Tarzan must have his Jane, every Superman his Lois Lane."

In Tarzan's case, his whole family consisted of great apes. He didn't need 'his Jane', he needed 'a' Jane. Lois wanted Superman ever so much more than Superman wanted or needed her. He may have loved her and protected her, but her desire and need often grew to obsession.

I think there are a lot of movies where the 'love interest' is either just to make the point that the protaganist is heterosexual, or to allow for tittilating love scenes, than to comment on man's need for a woman to subjegate.

There are many examples of 'masculine types' in the movies who voluntarily give up the girl, sacrifice themselves to save the girl and others, or simply ride into the sunset because their job was done. Too many to support the theory that 'cinematic women are merely capital'.

Let's also look at the many Thelma and Louise / Alien(s) / Charlie's Angels / Long Kiss Goodnight / Chameleon / Alien from LA and other movies where women are as in every bit of control as the men in Die Hard / Lethal Weapon / and other movies.

The article is well researched and constructed; still, I always have a problem with generalizations that use terms like 'most' or 'nearly all', and then use anecdotal data (like mine) to support it, instead of stats. I'd be interested if there were some way of finding out what percentage of movies from each decade could objectively said to have male leads that subjegated the females, and vice versa.

smiley - towel

Good to see the balance

Post 2

Smij - Formerly Jimster

Absolutely - the introductory 'Every Tarzan needs his Jane' was a sarcastic examination of the situation though, not how it should be or even how it is, but how some Hollywood producers will insist on having it.

This entry looks just at the 'norm' in movies, how this kind of thing is just an accepted part of how things are in films. But films like Long Kiss Goodnight came as a result of people like Shane Black wanting to write stories that deviate from the norm; in other words, that it might be 'normal' for a man to be the gun-toting hero, but for a woman to fulfil exactly the same function is 'groundbreaking'.

There's room to have a companion entry here I think, on Movie representations of heroism in women, but I don't think I'm the one to write it, yet. Paully has a theory about Ripley in the Alien movies that is mind-blowing though, about how in each film, she has to remove her femininity to win, but each time she 'wins as a man' she sacrifices her role as a woman. She is the last survivor of the first alien movie, but we learn that she did so only by abandoning her daughter. She succeeds as a 'mother' figure to Newt but fails in her attempt to exterminate ther alien queen's nest (and ultimately fails to keep alive the people in her care). In the final film, she becomes masculinised in her androgyny and succeeds in winning only by 'Doing a Thelma and Louise' and refusing to allow the men to raise her 'child'.

(In the Dark Horse comic book adaptation it's even more pronounced - when the chest-burster is born, she breaks its neck)

Of course, Alien Resurrection ruins all of this, but then it's a dumb movie with no soul or substance.

(Other opinions are available)

smiley - cheers

Good to see the balance

Post 3

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

Such a study would be nearly impossible to complete without a large budget, and it still wouldn't be definitive. You'd be asking people to watch thousands of movies and make personal judgments calls. Remember, for every blockbuster there are a dozen lower grade movies out there.

I'm a woman with a strong interest in strong women in movies, particularly action or scifi movies, and I wouldn't disagree with the terms "most" or "nearly all" as they're used. Once you go past the rare breakouts that tend to receive notice, there are an awful lot of lousy movies that reinforce old srereotypes. And I'm assuming that "every Tarzan..." is a use of a common turn of phrase and not literally meant. Somewhere out there is probably a gay Tarzan movie, heaven help us. smiley - smiley

Anyway, I appreciate the effort put into this article. It can be hard to discuss stereotypes views of men, since there can be resistance from many different quarters. But I think we learn something from seeing the flip side of the often discussed coin of stereotypes about women.

Good to see the balance

Post 4

Smij - Formerly Jimster

And as you say, with so many movies, you can only ever use examples to represent archetypes and stereotypes rather than genuine, scientific analysis.

Glad you liked it though. smiley - smiley

Good to see the balance

Post 5


That's what so wonderful about opinions, none of us is suffering for lack of them. smiley - biggrin

I realize that I mentioned only recent movies, so I feel obligated to mention that, no matter how 'ground-breaking' a writer wants to be by writing the Long Kiss Goodnight from the vantage of a female spy/assassin, it's a long way from being a new thing.

There are many old black-and-white movies with strong female versions of tarzan, when tarzan was the king of masculinity as well as of apes. There were the Annie Oakley types, right along with the Gary Coopers. There were even female Errol Flynns.

Even if their numbers were smaller, it seems that the only place that women didn't hold their own was in slapstick comedy. I cannot recall a set of '3 stooges', Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Abbott & Costello, etc.

Strange that they should more easily move into the violently violent roles, rather than the violently funny roles.

smiley - towel

Good to see the balance

Post 6


And the 21st century? smiley - nahnah

Good to see the balance

Post 7


Strange thing. You still don't really see female comedy teams in the movies. Female buddy movies are out there, but not the Laverne and Shirley teams.

smiley - towel

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