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Title: Masculine identity in crisis in Hollywood's fin de millennium cinema
Author: Deakin, Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 2499
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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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 ‘masculinity in crisis movies’, this thesis contends that Hollywood cinema also had its own relationship to the millennial crisis in masculinity. A relationship that was in fact so prevalent and extensive, that it came to the tune of 23 titles all released in the fin de millennium moment. Each film replicating the terms of wider cultural discourse, each with a representational concern with the crisis and the apparent ‘masculine malaise’.The thesis also proposes that a dichotomous structure underpinned this cinema in which two altering identity complexes were voiced. On the one side, a presence that is distinctly feminine, where existential suffering is relieved through consumerism and conformity; whilst the other, which vitally is (re)-presented as the ‘preferred’, offered a deeply masculine, often hyper-sexual, anarchic and more violent presence. This thesis will seek to investigate these representations, whilst attempting to place them in a broader macro sphere of American socio-cultural history and commentary.From visceral male anger spectacles like Fight Club (1999) and American Psycho (2000), to ‘New Man’ white collar bashing in Office Space (1999) and American Beauty (1999), this cinema seemed to be in direct dialogue with a larger, and vitally elegiac, commentary on masculinity-in-crisis.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 paraphernalia, this work engages with both the real and reel at the fin de millennium moment. The thesis demonstrates why the concept of a single, fixed and unified ‘authentic’ definition of masculinity may be untenable, and why perhaps this cinema seemed to struggle to avoid essentialism, irony and self-parody as fragmented characters seemed to offer equally fragmented promises of redemption through ‘traditional’ displays of masculinity.What were the origins of the ‘crisis’, and how far was the crisis an actual or primarily a discursive one? Did this cinema help create or propel the crisis rather than sooth it, and how did the representation of ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘bipolar’ masculinity speak to the crisis and its audiences in general? Why did this section of Hollywood cinema decide to re-present these identities and what, if anything, can we learn from them? This research seeks to provide answers to these questions.
Supervisor: Butler, David; Dudrah, Rajinder Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Masculinities ; Hollywood ; Gender