Masked Men by Steven Cohan

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Author
Steven Cohan
Publisher
Date of release
Pages
346
ISBN
9780253332974
Binding
Illustrations
Format
PDF, EPUB, MOBI, TXT, DOC
Rating
3
47

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Book review

The fifties marks the moment when a heterosexual/homosexual dualism came to dominate U.S. culture's thinking about masculinity. The films of this era record how gender and sexuality did not easily come together in a normative manhood common to American men. Instead these films demonstrate the widely held perception of a crises of masculinity. "Masked Men" documents how movies of the fifties represented masculinity as a multiple masquerade. Hollywood depicts the sexual anxieties of the domesticated breadwinner, the repudiation of wartime homoerotic male bonding, the exhibitionism of muscular bodies on screen, the transvestic connotations of boyishness, and the playboy's bachelor apartment. These presentations challenged the postwar ideal of the so-called typical American male, that omnipresent and seemingly invisible Man in a Gray Flannel Suit. Films as different as "Dead Reckoning", "Red River", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "A Place in the Sun", "The Seven Year Itch", "The Ten Commandments", "Picnic", "North by Northwest", and "Pillow Talk", Cohan shows, highlight the performativity of masculinity. Hollywood's star system positioned the male actor as a professional performer and as a body intended to solicit the erotic interest of male and female viewers alike. Drawing on publicity, poster art, fan magazines, and the popular press as a means of following the links between fifties stars, their films, and the social tensions of the period, Cohan juxtaposes Hollywood's narratives of masculinity against the personae of leading men like Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, William Holden, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and Rock Hudson. "Masked Men" focuses on the gender and sexual masquerades that organized their performances of masculinity on and off screen.


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