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Type: Thesis
Title: The Masks That Wear Men: The Representation of Masculine Masquerade In 1990s American Action Cinema
Author: Bowen, Kate Marie
Issue Date: 2020
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : English and Creative Writing
Abstract: In 1990s America, masculinity was infamously pronounced in crisis. Hollywood cinema replicated this anxiety about gender identity with an influx of films which questioned the malleability of masculinity in a specific rhetoric of disguise, pretence, and masquerade. Masculinity in America has suffered through endless cycles of crisis both on and off screen. At its core, crisis is a panicked response to a changing political landscape, particularly changing gender relations. Cultural critics tend to conclude that the phrase ‘crisis’ is used so that masculinity may appeal for its oppression as much as minority identities; masculinity is confirmed and reinstated by paradoxically announcing its loss. But what exactly is being lost here? Why are attempts to incite cultural change about what it means to be a man vocalised in a language of loss and victimisation that this specific term ‘crisis’ implies? Such a response comes in the form of a key question which drives the decade onscreen: what makes a real man? I believe that masculinity’s invocation of crisis is due to an inability to reconcile a need for change with its insistence on invoking the rhetoric of ‘the real’ to define itself. Crisis cinema of the 1990s has been extensively studied, yet the action genre remains noticeably absent from this discussion (with the exception of David Fincher’s Fight Club). I propose that 1990s action cinema offers a unique interaction with masculinity crises wherein gender is specifically done, performed, or actioned through the motif of masquerade. In this thesis I ask whether gender masquerade reinforces or challenges the primacy of hegemonic masculinity in four action films (Point Break, Face/Off, Fight Club, and The Matrix) when put in the context of gender crises. I use Judith Butler’s theory of gender as a performative act in tandem with R. W. Connell’s theories of masculinities and hegemonic masculinity as frameworks for understanding the depiction of masculinity crises in the aforementioned four films. This thesis concludes that Point Break, Face/Off, Fight Club, and The Matrix demonstrate that the real anxiety for masculinity is an ontological crisis; action cinema incites a reworking of the definition of hegemonic masculinity to account for its ability to mask and displace its own contradictions so as to appear natural or innate and enjoy cultural invisibility as a construction. Ultimately, this thesis reveals that gender masquerade does not always challenge the legitimation of patriarchy and may actually work to secure masculinity’s primacy and continuation.
Advisor: Treagus, Mandy
Prosser, Rosslyn
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2020
Keywords: Action film
gender performance
gender masquerade
action cinema
American film
1990s cinema
Provenance: This thesis is currently under Embargo and not available.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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