Academic journal article Text Matters

"It's Not Just a Dream. There Is a Storm Coming!": Financial Crisis, Masculine Anxieties and Vulnerable Homes in American Film

Academic journal article Text Matters

"It's Not Just a Dream. There Is a Storm Coming!": Financial Crisis, Masculine Anxieties and Vulnerable Homes in American Film

Article excerpt

Text Matters, Volume 6, Number 6, 2016 DOI: 10.1515/texmat-2016-0010

Glen Donnar

RMIT University

Despite the Gothics much-discussed resurgence in mainstream American culture, the role the late 2000s nancial crisis played in sustaining this renaissance has garnered insufcient critical attention. This article nds the Gothic tradition deployed in contemporary American narrative lm to explore the impact of economic crisis and threat, and especially masculine anxieties about aperceived incapacity of men and fathers to protect vulnerable families and homes. Variously invoking the American and Southern Gothics, Take Shelter (2011) and Winters Bone (2010) represent how the domestic-everyday was made unfamiliar, unsettling and threatening in the face of metaphorical and real (socio-)economic crisis and disorder. The lms explicit engagement with contemporary American economic malaise and instability thus illustrates the Gothics continued capacity to lay bare historical and cultural moments of national crisis. Illuminating culturally persistent anxieties about the American male condition, Take Shelter and Winters Bone materially evoke the Gothic traditions ability to scrutinize otherwise unspeakable national anxieties about male capacity to protect home and family, including through afocus on economic-cultural white Otherness. The article further asserts the signicance of prominent female assumption of the protective role, yet nds that, rather than individuating the experience of nancial crisis on failed men, both lms deftly declare its systemic, whole-of-society basis. In so doing, the Gothic sensibility of pervasive anxiety and dread in Take Shelter and Winters Bone disrupts dominant national discursive tendencies to revivify American institutions of traditional masculinity, family and home in the wakes of 9/11 and the recession.

Its not just adream. There is astorm coming!: Financial Crisis, Masculine

Anxieties and Vulnerable Homes in American Film

A B S T R A C T

Glen Donnar

INTRODUCTION: THE AMERICAN GOTHIC AND PERIODS OF CRISIS

It is critical commonplace that the Gothic resurges in culture in historical moments of national crisis, turmoil and insecurity, interrogating the haunting weight of past deeds and misdeeds to diagnose the troubled present. More specically for this article, the American Gothicperhaps once, but no longer critically deemed oxymoronicexplicitly engages the historical and political horrors of American history, and namely the guilt associated with Americas originary racial traumas of slavery, conict and dispossession (Soltysik Monnet 625; Goddu 6365). In so doing, the American Gothic speaks the culturally and politically unspeakable to probe contemporary American traumas and anxieties. In the wake of the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, understandings of the American Gothic were sharpened to communicate its dominant capacity to envision the American nightmare (Soltysik Monnet 6). This renewed understanding especially articulates the capacity of the American (and modern) Gothic to equally and forcefully interrogate contemporary horrors as much as historical (and sadly persistent) injustices. Two recent American lms that depict the degenerative impacts of nancial crisis on the American male, family and home in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 2009, Take Shelter (2011) and Winters Bone (2010), however, extend this temporal relation. Past traumas and misdeeds haunt emphatically in each, yet the Gothic tradition chiey represents protagonists present struggles for their familys fraught futurethe American Dream become nightmare.

The Gothics resurgence in mainstream American culture over the last decade is routinely linked with agothicization of political discourse that Blakein contending the effectiveness of the Gothic mode in American culture remains undiminished irrespective of its ubiquityobserves post-9/11 (37). Championed through the Bush Administrations pervasive rhetorical deployment of fear, the Gothic arguably erupted in the so-named War on Terror and popular cultural representations equivalently marked by perceived existential threat, consequent torture and the echoes of military traumas and gender anxieties. …

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