Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films

Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films

Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films

Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films

Synopsis

Until Masculine Interests not much had been written about men "as men" in the cinema. Now Robert Lang considers how Hollywood articulates the eroticism that is intrinsic to identification between men. He considers masculinity in social and psychoanalytic terms, maintaining that a major function of the movies is to define different types of masculinity, and to either valorize or criticize these forms. Focusing on several films -- primarily The Lion King, The Most Dangerous Game, The Outlaw, Kiss Me Deadly, Midnight Cowboy, Innerspace, My Own Private Idaho, the Batman series, and Jerry Maguire -- Lang questions the way in which American culture distinguishes between homosexual and nonhomosexual forms of male bonding. In arguing for a much more complex recognition of the homosocial continuum, he contends that queer sexuality is far more present in American cinema than is usually acknowledged.

Excerpt

Those of us who are born male must at some point early in our lives start figuring out what it means to be male. Although we are inscribed within culture from birth, and there is the question of the roles played by genetics and biology, there is a sense in which we also make choices about how to inhabit our maleness. To become gendered, as one of the first requirements of becoming socialized, we both consciously and unconsciously learn the codes of masculinity available to us—by observing Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters, friends, strangers on the street, teachers, magazine advertising, television, movies, and so on.

For a long time, after the advent of cinema as a mass form of entertainment, movies played a significant role in the shaping of masculine behavior and identity in American culture. They still do, even though television has taken over as the dominant medium through which masculine subjectivities are forged in the United States and the industrialized countries of the West. The American feature film nevertheless remains, directly or indirectly, one of the most powerful producers of images of what it means to be a man in late capitalist society. The implications of this fact are central to the themes of this book, in which I examine some contemporary masculinities in a handful of American genre films.

I begin with the uncontroversial observation that a mass cultural artifact like the American genre film (particularly with its excessive sexual stereotyping) can tell us a great deal about the ideological underpinnings of the society which produces (me as) a masculine subject, and I have chosen my films for analysis accordingly. To be(come) a man involves looking at other men, seeing them in dramatic, narrative contexts, identifying with them—which is why I limit my investigation to films in which a male-male relationship is central in the construction of a masculine identity. Although I look at movies from almost every decade of the cinema, this is not a survey or history of the . . .

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