Dark Cinema: American Film Noir in Cultural Perspective

By Jon Tuska | Go to book overview

7
Noir Men

In view of how women are "located" in the majority of films noirs, it might seem, on the surface, that most male viewers would be pleased, or at least reassured, at the way men are portrayed. It is actually a mystery to me how little men have objected over the decades to the stereotypes through which they have been portrayed. This insensitivity may be due to a collective hamartía, induced perhaps in the case of film noir by the vicarious pleasure to be gained by the reduction of independent women and the reinforcement of patriarchal values. Yet, patriarchy is a double-edged sword. For men, it prescribes that they must perform in order to be loved, and part of that performance must include subscribing to the success ethic. Keeping women in their "place" means for men that they, too, must keep to their place: they must go it alone, with only the buddy system to sustain them; they cannot show too much emotion; above all, they must find the meaning of life in activity, never contemplation. Most intellectual, artistic, spiritual, or emotional proclivities must be held firmly in check. It is their purpose in life to work, to provide, to protect, and to serve without ever questioning in the preservation of the way of life of their culture and their government. No less than women, they must constantly be on guard against socially unacceptable impulses and obsessions. Saddest of all, they must pass through life without ever experiencing a deep and abiding friendship with the women they might love, never permitting themselves to explore a woman's soul or allowing a woman to explore their souls, closing themselves off, confining themselves to a role in life which they have had no part in creating and which was not created to accommodate their own idiosyncracies. There are no more alternative life-styles for men in the world of film noir than there are for women. In DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Walter Neff would beat the system, so the prescription is that he must be destroyed. The dominant male image in the film is not that of Phyllis' husband: he dies. It is rather the role assigned to Keyes, a

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Dark Cinema: American Film Noir in Cultural Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Author's Note xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Part I - Literary Antecedents 1
  • 1 - Tragedy 3
  • 2 - Hostages of Fate 43
  • Part II - Cinematic Antecedents 103
  • 3 - German Expressionist Cinema 105
  • 4 - American Cinema between the Wars 125
  • Part III - American Film Noir 147
  • 5 - The Film Noir Canon 149
  • 6 - Noir Women 199
  • 7 - Noir Men 215
  • 8 - Noir Directors 233
  • Notes 241
  • Chronology and Filmography of Films Noirs 263
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 283
  • About the Author *
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