Hamlet, Fight Club, and Cremaster 3-The Order: fighting the Die Hard masculinity narrative
Sobey, Andrew Chapin.
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Socially constructed ideas of gender are crucial in Western culture. For males, the achievement of the status of "manhood" is essential to be considered truly male. Because of the cultural importance of this achievement, many cultural artifacts reflect and revolve around it. The exploration and celebration of manhood thus often forms the basis for works of art. In the case of film, an art form practiced much more commonly by men, examples abound. However, not all filmic narratives about masculinity take the same approach to the issue. While many portray the achievement of manhood in a simple, celebratory way, some in fact challenge cultural ideas of masculinity. The purpose of this essay is to discuss and identify these subversive masculinity narratives, with the goal of establishing a dimorphic categorization system. This system delineates masculinity narratives between a traditional, celebratory type, and a new, self-aware/self-reflexive type. For the purposes of this discussion I analyze several examples of mainstream masculinity narratives: the films Fight Club and Die Hard, and Shakespeare's Hamlet. I intend to show how the different portrayals of masculinity in these works either reinforce or subvert traditional cultural ideas of masculinity, and seek to establish a model for the new masculinity genre. To study these issues from another angle, I also look at an avant-garde work, Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3: The Order. This second analysis shows how mainstream masculinity narratives, both the traditional and new varieties, can be packaged and discussed in an experimental work. Ultimately, this essay establishes a new/traditional masculinity binary, as both a lens for analyzing current works, and a mold for creating new ones.