Oscarwatch Podcast: Unforgiven

Hey folks! In my ongoing effort to get this old blog of mine back up and running, I thought I would tell you about my recent guest appearance on the fantastic new podcast, Oscarwatch. Hosts Steven Buja and Alex Riviello graciously asked me to come on and talk about one of my all-time favorite movies, Clint Eastwood’s elegiac Western Unforgiven. In this episode, we discuss how the film demythologizes everything from violence to masculinity to the American West itself. It gets kind of heavy at times, but still manages to be a lot of fun throughout.

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I successfully defended my thesis!

On Friday, September 26, 2014, I successfully defended my thesis titled “Gangstas, Thugs, Vikings, and Drivers: Cinematic Masculine Archetypes and the Demythologization of Violence in the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.” Not only did I pass, but I passed with distinction, which is the best feeling in the world after struggling with a lot of self-doubt and uncertainty during the two years it took to research and write the damn thing. Anyway, I thought I should share the final version my thesis with the readers of this blog, because it might be of interest to some of the scholarly types out there. To visit DePaul’s online depository, you can just click the link above, or just click here. Both links will take you directly to the page housing my thesis. Thank you, and I hope you not only enjoy reading my ramblings, but also find the information contained within useful.

Valhalla Rising and the Demythologization of Male Violence

This post is based on my Master’s thesis, now titled Gangstas, Thugs, Vikings, and Drivers: Cinematic Masculine Archetypes and the Demythologization of Violence in the Films of Nicolas Winding Refn, written for the Media and Cinema Studies program at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. This version represents an early draft of a journal article that my partner, Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard and I are preparing in the hopes of publishing. As always, I welcome any and all feedback/suggestions, so feel free to comment below or email me directly. Thank you.

INTRODUCTION

In a video essay produced for RogerEbert.com, film critics Matt Zoller Seitz and Peter Labuza (2014) explain that with Pulp Fiction, director Quentin Tarantino establishes his characters as cool and larger-than-life by visually and textually enlarging their personae before they ever appear onscreen. Seitz and Labuza point to the characters of Marsellus Wallace, Mia Wallace, and Winston Wolfe as examples, explaining that Tarantino creates ideas of these characters long before they actually appear in the film. Other characters talk about Marsellus and Mia before they ever appear onscreen, and the film offers brief, tantalizing glimpses of both characters before finally revealing them in full. Seitz and Labuza argue that this serves to mythologize the characters in the minds of the audience, and that these characters attain the status of legendary figures as a result. Furthermore, he argues that other characters in the film actively construct larger-than-life personae by self-mythologizing, and they establish themselves as cool simply because they frequently refer to themselves as such.

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Violent Masculinity in the Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Part II

This is the second post in a series looking at how Nicolas Winding Refn engages with a recurring notion or approach to violent masculinity in his films. This series is based on the first draft of the second chapter of my Master’s thesis, titled Gangstas, Thugs, Vikings and Drivers: Cinematic Masculine Archetypes and Violent Masculinity in the Films of Nicolas Winding Refn. In this post, I examine the concept of stoic masculinity, which is a vital component of the hegemonic masculine ideal. As always, this is a work in progress, so if you are interested in quoting any of the information here, please contact me first for permission. Additionally, I welcome any and all feedback, so please feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions about how the work could be improved or altered. Thank you.

STOICISM AND MASCULINITY

In addition to violence, aggression, and emotional constipation, one of the defining traits of dominant hegemonic masculinity is stoicism. Whereas men are often positioned as existing outside of language, and their silence is used as a way of emphasizing their lack of power, men who exist outside of language are often positioned as having an excess of power, and they are depicted as not needing language because they instead let their actions speak for them (Lehman, 1993). Indeed, the muscular tough guy characters that embody dominant hegemonic masculinity in Hollywood films (particularly action movies) are traditionally depicted as men of few words who are quick to act (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: In the film Commando (1985), John Matrix (as embodied by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a prime example of the strong, silent type. Image credit: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing.htm
Fig. 1: In the film Commando (1985), John Matrix (as embodied by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a prime example of the strong, silent type who lets his actions speak louder than his words. Image credit: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing.htm

Continue reading “Violent Masculinity in the Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Part II”