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Title: Performing masculinity : the star persona of Tom Cruise
Author: O'Donnell, Ruth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 7832
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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Tom Cruise was one of the most financially successful stars of the 1980s and 1990s and remains an important Hollywood player. In his time at Paramount, he negotiated new deals which redefined how stars earned revenue from their films. Yet little substantial study has been made of him or his persona. Cruise came to prominence in the 1980s, an epoch which redefined the terms of masculinity, moving away from a particular martial ideal following American defeat in Vietnam. His persona addresses the consequent anxieties surrounding these significant social changes. In addition to this, his image can be understood within a psychoanalytic framework to be offering a 'compromise formation' to the difficulties of psychosexual development. Cruise appears to offers a challenge to the father, but in reality recedes from Oedipal threat. Chapter One examines the nascent Cruise star persona and its development across his films. The chapter provides a historical overview and contextualisation of the persona. Chapter Two explores how the persona offers a 'performative' model of masculinity based on a heroic martial ideal, as well as his positioning as an object of spectacle and the onscreen homoerotic relationships he enjoys. Chapter Three looks at the star's association with the racial 'other' and preoccupation with male friendships at the expense of heterosexual romance. Objectification through spectacle, which black characters and Cruise share in his films, indicate a symbolic shared powerlessness within the hegemony. Chapter Four argues that this lack of status is characterised by Cruise's struggle against male authority figures, which represent both corporate America and the punishing father. This relays the trauma of Oedipal struggle, which Cruise attempts to evade. Chapter Five looks in further depth at the Cruise persona's preoccupation with male bonds and lack of interest in women, both indicative of a regression from the phallic to the earlier anal/cannibalistic psycho-sexual stage, as he is unable to overcome the symbolic father . The thesis concludes by suggesting Cruise's persona is a compromise: it presents a triumphant young man who in reality is oppressed by patriarchal forces. This compromise is premised on youth and is threatened as Cruise ages, exaggerated by social changes within America. Biologically and socially, Cruise's persona is no longer tenable.
Supervisor: Merck, Mandy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Masculinity ; Stardom ; Hollywood ; Tom Cruise ; Performance ; Psychoanalytic Theory