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The transformation of masculinity in late capitalism: narratives of legitimation and Hollywood cinema

Harman, Thomas 2013. The transformation of masculinity in late capitalism: narratives of legitimation and Hollywood cinema. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis contends that a number of popular Hollywood films from the 1990s present evidence of a transformation in the legitimate ways of acting for white heterosexual men in contemporary Western metropolitan society. I argue that the transformation is intimately tied to the rising dominance of what I call a neoliberal ‘narrative of legitimation’. What is significant about my intervention, and distinguishes it from previous studies of representations of masculinity in film, is the use of the theoretical lens of legitimation and my focus upon late capitalism as a normalising principle. Each of the four chapters is dedicated to a close reading of a single film, Falling Down, Se7en, American Psycho and Fight Club. Through an interrogation of the films, as well as an appraisal of the critical literature that has responded to them, I will argue that a fundamental change has taken place in the legitimate expectations, motivations and justifications that inform the representation of masculinity in late-twentieth-century Hollywood cinema. The necessity for such a change is framed in the films as a response to an urban environment represented as a cynical, indifferent and chaotic hell that has to be resigned to as the only ‘real’ reality. My analysis proposes that through the narrative trajectory of these films conflicting models of masculine conduct are put forward yet successively abandoned, leaving only a single model that is fully aligned to neoliberal ends. This model abandons any attachment to family, nation or community and affirms a resigned individualism that merely maintains itself, unable to attach to or affect the world around it. Such a conflict of narratives, however, also leaves open the possibility of attesting to alternative narratives incommensurable with the prevailing neoliberal narrative of legitimation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 10:32

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