Communication and Culture | Race, Gender, and Representation (Topic: Masculinity in Hollywood Film)
C412 | 27518 | Klinger, B.

TuTh, 2:30 PM-3:45 PM, C2 203
Required film screening: W, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, SY 105

Fulfills College S&H Requirement
Fulfills College Culture Studies Requirement (List A)

Instructor: Barbara Klinger
Office: C2 225
Phone: 855-1796

Since the late 1980s, media studies has become increasingly
interested in how masculinity is represented on screen. Before this
recent interest, critics assumed that depictions of masculinity in
film were fairly uniform; that what we saw repeatedly was the so-
called American masculine ideal--the square-jawed, macho, rugged
individualist who could right all wrongs with his fists or a gun.
Upon closer inspection, critics have recognized that, while this
type certainly exists, there are significant contradictions and
crises in its representations, as well as greater diversity and
complexity in male images in the cinema than previously suspected.
More complex notions of how men appear on screen ultimately helps us
better understand female images–the nature of male roles helps
determine the constraints on and possibilities of female roles, as
well as how the interrelationship between the sexes is depicted.

In this course we begin by examining the social and historical basis
of the masculine ideal of the rugged, individualist American as it
is incarnated in the Western cowboy-hero, sketching the evolution of
this important figure in U.S. cinema. We then study masculine types
that depart from this model, considering how ethnicity, race,
homosexuality, and other kinds of “difference” have figured in male
portrayals. As we explore these depictions, we will discuss a range
of other issues as well. These include: the way that star personas
affect the audience’s perception of masculinity; the impact of
genres—like Westerns, romantic comedies, action-adventure films,
blaxploitation, and interracial buddy movies—on notions of gender
and race identities; and how representations of masculinity have
worked in relation to or against conceptions of national identity at
various historical moments. How do images of men in cinema, as a key
mass medium, figure into the creation and transformation of what it
means to be an “American” at different times in the nation’s

To address these and other questions, we will read central works in
gender studies and film studies and analyze films that feature
actors/stars significant to our discussions, from Rudolph Valentino
to Robert DeNiro and beyond. Assignments will include three exams
(including the final) and a short paper, with attendance and
participation counting toward your grade for the semester.