Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era

Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era

Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era

Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era

Synopsis

"Hard Bodies looks at some of the most popular films of the Reagan era and examines how the characters, themes, and stories presented in them often helped to reinforce and disseminate the policies, programs, and beliefs of the "Reagan Revolution." In particular, because Ronald Reagan was himself most often portrayed in terms that emphasized his strength, toughness, and assertiveness, one of the key images of the Reagan era was that of masculinity itself. But the Reagan era also promoted a concept of the nation as gendered, as strong, tough, and assertive, like the President who seemed to epitomize the United States in its confrontation with the "evil" Soviet empire, the Sandinista government, or the drug-trading cartels. Action-adventure films of the 1980s accentuated these qualities, not only as foreign policy methods but also as domestic agendas, putting forward the American "hard body" as the solution to the nation's foreign and domestic failings. Through her illuminating and detailed analyses of both the Reagan presidency and many blockbuster movies, Susan Jeffords provides a scenario within which the successes of the New Right and the Reagan presidency can begin to be understood Rambo, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Robocop, Back to the Future, Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series, Mississippi Burning, Rain Man, Batman, and Unforgiven are among the films she discusses. In her closing chapter, she suggests the direction that masculinity is taking in the 1990s." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In November of 1981, after suffering numerous legislative defeats at the hands of the new coalition of Republicans and Reagan Democrats, Speaker of the House "Tip" O'Neill suggested that one of the reasons that Ronald Reagan was such an effective president was that people simply "like him as an individual." He went on to say, "They're rooting for him because we haven't had any presidential successes for years--Kennedy killed, Johnson with Vietnam, Nixon with Watergate, Ford, Carter, and all the rest." As journalist Roger Rosenblatt phrased it at the beginning of 1981, "the U.S. is famished for cheer." Coming after the agonizing national standoff with Iran over the hostages, Ronald Reagan's election to the White House was to change this sense of presidential failure. Chosen as Time magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1980, Reagan went on to become, according to the Gallup poll, the most admired man in America throughout the eight years of his presidency. His approval rating when he left office in 1989 was higher than any outgoing president's during the previous forty years.

Reagan came to the White House during a troubled period in U.S. history. In summing up why Ronald Reagan was the "man of the year" in 1981, Time magazine declared: "The events of any isolated year can be made to seem exceptionally grim, but one has to peer hard to find elevating moments in 1980." As Rupert Wilkinson characterized the period . . .

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