Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Hegemonic Masculinity and Blake's "Mission of Mercy": David Mamet's Cinematic Adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross as Postmodern Satire of Fundamentalist Christianity

Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Hegemonic Masculinity and Blake's "Mission of Mercy": David Mamet's Cinematic Adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross as Postmodern Satire of Fundamentalist Christianity

Article excerpt

In September of 1983, playwright, novelist, and screenwriter David Mamet's stage version of Glengarry Glen Ross opened in London. Six months later, the play, directed by Gregory Mosher, opened in New York earning a Tony nomination and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1992, nearly a decade later, David Mamet reworked the piece into a screenplay using the same title (directed by James Foley). The film failed to meet its budget, but met a decidedly warm critical reception: on top of a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination, the seven main actors even shared the Valladolid International Film Festival Best Actor award. Among numerous changes to the Glengarry Glen Ross screenplay, David Mamet added a new character: Blake, a name Philip French (2004) argues is a reference to William Blake and "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (p. 181).

In the years separating the stage and screen versions of Glengarry Glen Ross, the American religious climate changed dramatically. Between the time of the first American staging in 1984 and the 1992 cinematic incarnation, the United States saw both the final years of Ronald Reagan's presidency and a drastic increase in self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christians. Many scholars, including Betty Jean Craige (1988), Linda Kintz (1997), and Joel A. Carpenter (1999), have pointed to Reagan as a catalyst for the increase in conservative Christianity. Where Craige (1988) argues that for fundamentalist Christians, Reagan represents a nostalgic yearning for "traditional values" that were fiercely challenged by feminism in the 1980s (p. vii), Kintz contends that, as a public icon, Reagan embodied the idealization of the white, middle-class, Republican, Christian male as the national subject (p. 60), and Carpenter posits that Reagan offered a model whereby conservative Christianity could flourish by integrating itself into the mainstream culture (p. 173). While this paper is not about Ronald Reagan, per se, the previous comments uncover many of the anxieties that develop in the time separating the stage play Glengarry Glen Ross from the film version. By studying the piece through the lens of religion, history, and literature, one sees how the changes Mamet makes to the screenplay, most specifically the addition of Blake (Alex Baldwin), respond to these tensions in the American religious, economic, and gender climate.

Setting the Stage for a New Critique

By constructing the business office of Premiere Properties as a masculine space (set in New York City in the film, but Chicago in the play), David Mamet's stage play Glengarry Glen Ross presents a group of salesmen not only at odds with each other, but also with themselves. Each of the characters carefully manicures his self-presentation by walking a fine line between amiability and forcefulness. Like Willy Loman (from Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman), each man tries to sell the same product: himself. When Mamet adapted his play to film (as its scriptwriter), he added an additional character not originally found in his play, namely, a representation of the ultimate machismo force: Blake (albeit, unnamed within the film and deliberately evasive about revealing it to the salesmen). This charismatic character shows up in the film for little more than seven minutes early on in the narrative, and, by infusing his speech with religiously intoned questions and comments like "Have you made your decision for Christ?" his sales success soliloquy shifts the satire of the stage version, which was originally directed at capitalism, to a new sociopolitical target: fundamentalist Christianity. Blake, as a character corollary for a particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity that focuses primarily on the rules of salvation/damnation, legalistic Christianity, emphasizes the binary structure of hegemonic masculinity. Both fundamentalist Christianity and hegemonic masculinity dictate an understanding of history and the individual that are both built upon reductive binaries: for fundamentalist Christianity, one is either a Christian or one is not, and for hegemonic masculinity, one is either masculine or one is not. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.