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Spectacular bodies: gender, genre and the action cinema

By Yvonne Tasker


The dissertation presents an account of the contemporary American action cinema. The themes, stereotypes and iconography associated with the genre are explored through detailed discussion of film examples. Films are also situated in relation to the particular context of production and consumption associated with 'new Hollywood', including genre hybrids, the blockbuster as a form and the importance of new forms of distribution such as home video. Though framed as a genre study, the account is also centrally concerned with an exploration of gender.\ud \ud The dissertation presents an account of the articulation of masculinity within the genre and engages with developing debates in this field. It is suggested that contemporary images of men, widely discussed as new, can be usefully explored in relation to the generic history from which they emerge. The articulation of masculinity in the genre is explored through both genre codes and star images. Recent distinctive roles for women in the action cinema are further situated in a generic context. The research also explores the contention that representations of gender should be understood within an exploration of other discourses including race, class and sexuality. The place of black performers in the genre is discussed, and the extent to which recent films reiterate and/or develop existing stereotypes is addressed in this context. The limitations of ideological and narrative analysis in relation to a political exploration of the popular cinema is explored, with a consideration of cinematic spectacle and the place of fantasy identifications and symbolic configurations of power. The political ambivalence of popular imagery is emphasised in this context. It is argued that action films, which are often dismissed as simplistic in political terms articulate complex configurations of gendered and other identities

Topics: PN1993
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