Positive and Negative Influences of Cinema on Popular American Culture

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The definition of masculinity is not the exact opposite of femininity, nor is it the exact opposite of homosexuality. Masculinity is the culmination of many ideas ebbing and flowing within the social context that come together as an idea of the masses. The portrayal of virile, breadwinning, heterosexual, and until recently, white men in cinema, has clouded our perception of reality, a reality in which men are sometimes physically strong, sometimes weak, sometimes callous, sometimes passionate. “The representations of the so-called typical American male… [his] sexed identities, desires, and bodies are performative, the effects of a masquerade that is neither singular or continuous…” (Cohan, 1997) Men have been required since the decades starting around the nineteen forties to live as men of society and alternatively as primitive men. Many times they have been taken from a society in which feminism and masculinity are intertwined, respect and social conscience are fundamental, to a war in which they are surrounded solely by other men participating in the innately male dynamics of violence, polygamy, and competition. In the fifties (the periods immediately before and after as well as the years 1950-1959) there seems to be an expectation of maleness in cinema that follows well into the nineteen nineties, possibly beyond, in which a man provides emotional strength as well as financial stability for the woman and the family. These expectations mirror the role of the average man in our society, however, as the roles of women have changed so have the role of the man of the house. He used to be the bread-winner, the disciplinarian, the final say in the matter, but expectations began to change. More and more frequently to be a man one had to be a good listener, a homemaker, a laundress, a chef, a child care provider, a passionate and creative lover, a faithful partner, and a handy man. (Examples of those roles should be found and entered as proof of argument from 1940-present, about 3-4 well know films). As the nuclear family became more frequently the single parent family, the role of the man changed once again… (still working on idea) The Charles Atlas bodies of the golden age of cinema are now few and far between, but the expectation of a handsome, strong, and virile leading man is still strong. Few, if any, Hollywood heart throbs are lacking defined pectorals, but more importantly their characters are not lacking caring natures, the ability to nurture as well as provide, nor are they lacking a sense of humor, or sexual prowess. He may not have bulging biceps, a six foot frame, or a tropical tan, but our leading man has always had the ability to make us swoon. (You’ve Got Mail – Meg Ryan’s character’s wish list or another “chick flick” possibly Breakfast At Tiffany’s and/or looking into: Spartacus, Gidget films, Audrey Hepburn films, Casa Blanca? then onto Saturday Night Fever, then modern leading men Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Costner, ability of John Travolta to cross generations?) Homosexuality is not a new concept; it is not an unexplored area of society. The basis of the formation of the United States of America on biblical teachings however, has suppressed the normalcy of homosexuality in America. Gay roles portraying homosexuals as people with the same drives and desires as heterosexual people have only begun to surface in the last twenty to thirty years. Roles showing lesbian women and transgender roles seem to have been more widely accepted especially when they are used as comic relief, for demonizing those practices, or for the allure that they have for heterosexual males. The role of the gay man in society and in film seems to be widely accepted when those roles are antagonistic or when the derisive stereotype of a lisping, effeminate, overtly gay man is needed to inject some humor. The role of the homosexual man is only now receiving the same...
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