Monday, 9 September 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) Concusion

In conclusion; when talking about masculinity one cannot talk about the masculinity. Rather there are several masculinities in Western society. There is no essentialist description of what is a male. There will be males who do not satisfy the criteria. The masculinities present in society are not static but are a mixture of historical context and social aspects of the time period. Media, especially Hollywood, is a big delivery mechanism of stereotypes. Film works with stereotypes because people already have the conception. The stereotypical representations of masculinities have never been gone from popular ‘American’ culture. Stereotypical images become reaffirmed after the crisis of masculinity. Therefore masculinity stereotypes are perpetuated by Hollywood film. The representation of masculinities in Harold and Kumar is subjected to a colonial ordering. Harold and Kumar, in the film ‘Harold and Kumar go to White Castle’, are portrait as asexual or hypersexual, emasculate or effeminate and outside a position to renegotiate their identity. Harold like other Asian masculinities is desexualised and emasculated by being displayed as overly emotional and second to other masculinities that have access to the negotiation of hegemony. Kumar is homosexualised and portrayed as immature falling in the orientalist colonial tradition of ‘the manly Englishman and the effeminate Bengali’. The movie gives potential to the renegotiation of Asian masculinity stereotypes, however it falls short in the possibility of renegotiation. ‘Harold and Kumar go to white castle’ therefore use the masculinities in the same context as colonialism to ensure the patriarchy of hegemonic masculinity, where marginalised Asian masculinities have no space and access. Therefore they will continue to be stereotyped and marginalised in movies until a re-evaluation of hegemonic masculinity in the future.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part V

Emasculation and deviance in Harold and Kumar Harold and Kumar (2004) can be classified as an ‘adventure comedy movie’. While going on a ‘quest’ to get to a restaurant Harold and Kumar land into different absurd and comical situations. The movie plays with masculinity stereotypes and exaggerates them, however, at the same time confirms them in subtle manners. The protagonists of the movie are Harold and Kumar, two ‘Asian’ (Korean and Indian) males. However the movie begins with two white and ‘successful’ males proclaiming their heterosexuality by explicit sexist ‘statements’. The beginning gives the intention that they are the protagonist of the story. The men are the personification of the male, white, highly educated middle-class and strong hegemonic domination. The two men delegate their work to Harold a colleague. Harold is portrait in a manner which confirms his subordination. Frame 1 illustrates the two man authority over Harold; by standing over him and giving him no room to negotiate. Harold is portrayed seated completely overwhelmed and suppressed by the men. Harold as an analyst in a big American firm is pictured as a nerd lacking a backbone, in comparison to the two assertive and apparently sociable males. The mere dominated force of the men makes Harold comply and agree to do the work of the males to ensure the ‘status’[1] position within the company (Leiner, 2004). image Frame 1: Encountering Hegemony (Leiner, 2004) “The one-dimensional model of masculinity” (2001, p. 25) is what Chan calls the exclusion of Asian-masculinities from the normative which denies Asian males access to creating an Asian masculine identity within the norm. The emasculation through desexualisation and effeminisation is a testament to the power the hegemonic masculinity ideal has in society. The dualism present in the movie keeps the emasculation of the marginal masculinities in place (Watson, 2009). Kumar on the other hand is portrayed in hypersexual, immature and deviant manner. The viewer is introduced to Kumar standing naked in front of a mirror in Harold’s room. The masculinity Kumar presents is emasculated through being portrait as sexual deviant, immature adolescent and hyper sexualized, because Kumar’s masculinity is portrayed and represented as immature Kumar is represented as subjugated to the maturity other two men. Desexualisation, Effeminisation & Homosexualisation in action In the movie Harold is portrayed as a man who finds it difficult to talk to women, he is very emotive and anxious. Harold’s favourite movie is Sixteen Candles (Hughes, 1984), a chick flick for which he is criticised and his manhood questioned. Harold becomes associated with a more effeminate marginalised masculinity, which is linked to his ethnicity by several scenes. image Frame 2: Encountering Hegemony (Leiner, 2004) First, when Harold and Kumar are harassed by some ‘extreme sportsmen’ (embodying the action oriented and braveness associated by the hegemonic masculine ideal) his sexuality and manliness is questioned at the same time. They address Harold and Kumar in derogative racial terms then continue to ask about homosexual practices. Picture 2 exhibits the gestures made which are derogative to lesbianism. So not only are they effeminized but also attributed lesbian qualities. The ‘extreme sport males’ in the scene are very aggressive and assertive. The muscular physique and size of the men is contrasted with Harold and Kumar. Whereas Harold and Kumar wear several layers of clothing, the ‘extreme sport men’ wear shirts displaying their muscles. Harold is seen wearing a very neat (and what is classified as nerdy) blouse and sports jacket with Kumar in a more juvenile outfit of that of a high schooler in a comical t-shirt and sneakers (see frame 2). The image enforces the stereotyped depictions in popular of Asian Masculinities. Second, when being halted by a policeman Kumar takes on the role of his defender, exclaiming outrage over the policeman trying to harass the weak, emotional Asian guy. The policeman again exemplifies ‘white’ masculine authority. The emasculation of ‘Asian’ stereotypes emphasises the lacking aspects of the males to ensure the superiority of hegemonic masculinity (Eng, 2001). When the policeman criticises Kumar’s name, Harold in an aim to please/gain acceptance emphasised his Anglophone name. The response of the policeman; “You should be proud of that name. As you were ladies” (Leiner, 2004). During their road trip Harold and Kumar end up in Princeton where the protagonists meet up with the Asian American community of the university, see picture three. The men Harold and Kumar meet have the same stereotypical portrayal of ‘Asian’ masculinity as Harold (Leiner, 2004). The group sees Harold as a role model, a person who has it ‘made’ in the corporate world. The nerdy-ness becomes equal to a physical and mental weakness. In Harold and Kumar (2004) the director gives us a glimpse behind the projected masculinity. However the drive of the ‘Asian’ men to conform to the stereotype fails to deconstruct the stereotype. image Frame 3: An Asian Masculinity Stereotype (Leiner, 2004) Harold in the movie has a love interest with whom he fails to pursue. To talk to ‘Maria’ is already very awkward and difficult for Harold. Harold in a way admires Maria from afar without even really being able to pursue her. In the end when he finally admits his interest to Maria she is on the way to the Airport going to Europe. Harold remarks that he will see her afterwards and wishes her a good trip. When Harold relays this to Kumar, he is horrified and exclaims “we cannot compete with these suave sophisticated guys, when she comes back she might not even be available” (Leiner, 2004), questioning their conception of competing with (what they see as) a hegemonic masculinity. Again the Asian male is not portrayed actually pursuing and getting his love interest. Harold is not only questioned about his masculinity. When Harold and Kumar meet the ‘extreme males’ again in a convenience store Kumar tries to stand up against the men but fails when he flinches at the men’s approach. Kumar in contrary to Harold is portrayed as a sexual deviant and immature (Leiner, 2004). His view on sexuality is very different from the norm and almost homosexual at times. Kumar the second protagonist in the movie is posed as a hypersexual and unable to control himself sexually but also in his everyday life he has no control. Kumar prefers his want above what he ‘should’ do to ‘become a real man’. In the movie Kumar finds himself the respondent of homosexual interest a few times. Harold and Kumar end up in the Hospital and the male nurse who is helping them makes very clear advances toward Kumar, who fetishizes Kumar’s sexuality when Kumar acts very capable and comes out of his ‘slacker’ role (Leiner, 2004), destroying the opportunity of Kumar to shed of the Asian masculine identity entrenched with colonial context. image Frame 4: Homoerotic fetish (Leiner, 2004) Kumar’s sexual deviance is highlighted another time when the two protagonists end up with a Southern couple. The wife is very interested in Harold and Kumar. The woman eroticises and mystifies the men. This idea of the married woman ‘seducing’ the oriental has been a traditional subject in fiction and orientalist literature for a long time (Said, 1979). Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004) reaffirms these stereotypical ideas. The relationship of Harold and Kumar is also very important to address. The way they act with each other can be described as homosocial or homoerotic. The co-dependence or homosocial relationship is based on a role division that simulates an ‘old married couple’. The line between homosocial and homosexual is crossed several times. When Kumar is standing naked in Harold room or waking up Harold by licking him awake, as displayed in the picture below. image Frame 5: Homosocial of Homosexual (Leiner, 2004) Harold and Kumar may be one of the few mainstream Hollywood movies that display two Asian males in the leading role. However this destroys any attempt in the movie for the men to access identity formation power and undermines their masculinity
[1] Status referred to the role Harold plays within the company to claim a piece of status in the company but also with other males as an aspiration of normativity.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part III

Colonialism and Masculinity Edward Said (1979) in Orientalism defined the concept of orientalism. The image that is present in Western Society about what is seen as ‘the East’ is not a true representation of the complexity and diversity of the peoples in ‘the East’. Conceptions of the West about the culture, relationships and even geographical location and composition of the East is generalised and homogenised. Underlying the idea of ‘Orientalism’ as the empirical and scientific pursuit to understand the East is the mechanism to juxtapose the East against the West. Through orientalism as a study, the West can understand and valorise itself (Said, 1979). Concepts which are very undefinable without contrast such as ‘tall’, ‘brave’, ‘strong’, are not complete and understandable without their binary opposition of ‘short’, ‘chicken’ and ‘weak’. The West and East became binary oppositions in their own right. The West defined itself as a superior power that had morality and advantage. Culturally speaking, the West defined itself as Civilised (Sinha, 1995). Whereas the literal other is the East who is defined as ‘illogical’, ‘mysterious’, ‘uncontrollable’ and ‘primal’. The concept of orientalism has to be placed in the historical context of colonialism. The West was literally a demeaning power. “The Orient” was born out of the ‘othering’ of the West. The East did not have any power to influence the discourse about themselves (Said, 1979). The West could be very fictitious going as far as to claim certain aspects of the East out of indirect sources and accounts of others. The discourse about the East even influences how the East conceptualise themselves (Said, 1979). The conception of the ‘oriental’/Asian masculinity underwent the same mechanism. The stereotypical figures of the ‘manly Englishman’ and the ‘effeminate Bengali’ for example, are products of colonisation in relation to Indian society (Sinha, 1995). The emasculating mechanism of effeminisation and homosexualisation stem out of a colonial ordering of masculinity the mechanism (Dajani, 2000). When a new ‘Indian’/’Bengali’ intellectual class emerged, hegemonic masculine discourse and colonial notions of race converged. “In this colonial ordering of masculinity, the politically self-conscious Indian intellectuals occupied a unique place: they represented an ‘unnatural’ or ‘perverted’ form of masculinity” (Sinha, 1995, p. 2). The oriental masculinities where deemed to have more female characteristic and their identity was defined with a sexual “lack of manly self-control” (Sinha, 1995, p. 18) This link of a marginal masculinity and the sexuality ended up to “ homosexual practices with a distinct homosexual personality defines in terms of effeminacy and lack of male virility” (Sinha, 1995, p. 19). In the 21st century the influence of colonial ordering is still very present. Many of the assumptions about “the other” are present in the stereotyping of ‘oriental’ men and women. The media is and important conveyor of the produced stereotypes. Hollywood in portrays of Asians male either emasculated or desexualised, and this not only perpetuates the stereotype in Western society but also influences the self-perception of Asian males about their Masculinity who see the asymmetrical relations of power reflected in Western society and base their Masculine identity on stereotypical and essentialist assumptions and discourse (Eng, 2001).

Monday, 19 August 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part II

The masculinity or a masculinity The notion of ‘Masculinities’ is not synonyms to men or male. Masculinity is much more; masculinity is undeniably connected to gender. Therefore, masculinity entails the whole weight of gender and all connotations the dichotomy (male/female) brings to the table (Connell, 2005). Men and women both have expectations of behaviour, the ‘repetition’ and exposure to masculinity ideals create, as Connell calls them, ”patterns of practice by which people engage that position” (Connell, 2005, p. 15). In contemporary social psychology masculine and feminine stereotypes are viewed as more or less static, a blend of disposition and societal structures keeping them at place in society (Connell, 2005). The societal view classifies masculinity as an uninfluenced fact set in stone by your genes or determined by a higher power. Men just as women are considered to be in this absolute category, in which one only can occupy one space. Moreover one has to occupy one space (Connell, 2005). In the categorisation of gender certain essentialist assumptions take over and are emerging as generalisation. The phrases ‘Boys will be boys’ and ‘that is such a male thing to say’ is often heard by men and women alike, assuming that the nature of all men is the same. However, there are differences between men and their masculinities. There are multiple masculinities and these are not static but ever changing. Throughout history masculinities changed through interactions and the negotiation of gender roles is society (Connell, 2005). The concept of hegemonic masculinity is a very influential factor in the shaping of the masculinity representations (Cheng, 1999). The idea of hegemony “refers to the cultural dynamic by which a group claims and sustains a leading position in social life” (Connell, 2005, p. 77). An idealised and dominant picture of masculinity prevailed (mimicking the male and white colonial domination) over other masculinities. Hegemony can be considered a cultural dominance over other societies in the case of masculinity hegemony takes on an engendered representation (Sinha, 1995). In order to portray the ideal of the hegemonic male's superiority or his masculinity, the marginalised masculinities are shown as conquered or lacking (Connell, 2005).

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part IV

Marginalised Masculinity and Hollywood

“After all, where else, if not in the image factory of mainstream cinema, are other ethno-American masculinities produced and marketed? Whether African American, Italian American, Irish American, or Latino American, male identities are made in the movies, even when-and this might be the crux-those masculinities are the stuff of preposterous stereotype.” (Hillenbrand, 2008, p. 55)

What is the role of gender in Hollywood? The movie stars take a ‘mythical’ role of icon for years, an icon which embodies clear aspects of gender. The roles men have in movies reflect the stereotypical connotations society has about the different masculinities. Even within movies men follow a path that leads them to the desired masculine identity (Benshoff & Griffin, 2009). However, racialised masculine stereotypes are not even offered the opportunity and access to negotiate their place in a desired masculine identity (Chan J. , 2001). The racialised masculinity stereotypes in Hollywood movies embody all the fears, fetishes and fantasies stemming out of colonial ordering. The representations of masculinities in Hollywood movies are shaped to ease the anxieties of white cultural and societal fears (Watson, 2009). The tradition of portraying masculinities as conquered or lacking is also shown in mainstream Hollywood film and stereotypical portrayal of men has been present since the beginning of film (Watson, 2009).

Since the beginning of film, aspects of masculinity identities are changing over time and have never been static in cinema. The masculine ideal and the marginalised masculinities are always negotiated with what is happening in society and historical context (Powrie, Davies, & Babington, 2004). In the 80’s/90’s masculinity was in crisis and as a result certain colonial masculinity ideals re-emerged. “A more direct engagement with masculinity did emerge in the 1980‟s with the popular American “buddy movie”. Such films often paired black and white men, and therefore marked masculine differences, together for comedic and dramatic effect, as well as a more general cultural renegotiation of racial difference (Gill & Hansen-Miller, 2011, p. 62)”. In Those Hollywood ‘Asian’ actors who play main roles in mainstream film are desexualised. A prime example is Jackie Chan even though a lead player romantic attraction is visualised very abstract. Even though Chan is the hero who saves the girl, the portrayal of his character is a-sexual (Chan K. , 2004). The portrayals of ‘Asian’ masculinities are evolving around the aim of inclusion, to achieve normativity (Chan J. , 2001). Masculinity ‘closer’ to the hegemonic ideal would have an explicit love interest, most of the time a western masculinity. “Asian American men are so far from landing roles where they might "get the girl" that access to fully fledged, three-dimensional masculinity (even if it is defined in heterosexist, homosocial terms) is denied to them-and in the blithest, most unreflecting of ways-across the popular culture terrain” (Hillenbrand, 2008, p. 50). The desexualisation of Asian stereotypes is about the place in society they are allowed to have according to their representation. The place is especially created to adhere to the hegemonic masculine ideal. The position of masculinities in western society has an orientalist beginning from which never has been departed (Chan J. , 2001). Chan remarks;

“Men of colour are forced to prove their manhood, a coded term for a hegemonic masculinity, or risk the stigmatisation of being effeminised and homosexualised. In my discussion with young Asian men, I have found that the desire for inclusion within the dominant model of masculinity overrides the politics… because of the dialectic link between popular culture and individual male identity formations.” (Chan J., 2001, p. 11)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part I

Film has taken a uniquely powerful presence within human culture. Film is a powerful means for the conveyance of; culture, learning, relaxation and ideologies (Giroux, 2001). Film is therefore a powerful tool to assess the ordering of masculine representations and place masculinity in an historical context (Leiner, 2004). The film Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (Leiner, 2004) deals with several masculinities in relation to the ideal of hegemonic masculinity. Connell (2005) sees that the hegemonic masculine stereotype and the marginalised masculinities and countertypes are very present in all levels of society. Hegemonic masculinity is unattainable ideals about true male behaviour, what a true masculine male entails, and reductionist assumptions about countertypes. However, masculinity is not only a set of features a man should possess (Connell, 2005). I will study gender images and engendered practices that emerged out of colonialism and outlived the era of colonialism in Anglophone film. I claim that colonial representations of masculinity are still present in film. My question is; How does the movie Harold and Kumar go to white castle use representations of maleness stemming out of a colonial ordering of masculinity and representations of marginalised masculinity. The negotiations on the gender, sexuality, race and class intersections in society create formations of different stereotypes about the essence of those masculinities and femininities. Hegemonic masculinity and the marginalised masculinities and countertypes are a social construction and only make sense in the cultural and historical framework (Connell, 2005). Mosse in his book The Image of Man gives a historic account on the ideal of manliness. Not as a single defined idea of masculinity, but the different characteristics and qualities that a man should possess in a particular crossroad of differences. However, the use of masculinities always involves simplification (Mosse, 1996). Said (1979) in his famous book Orientalism made the Western imposition visible on culture and the erroneous suppositions which are at the core of Western attitudes toward the Middle East (orient) (Said, 1979). Gender is another construction with underlying assumptions about what it entails in essence to be a male and female. Isaac and Mercer (1988) argue that one cannot separate ethnicity from masculinity. The social construction of manhood influences the historical context it developed in (Mercer & Isaac, 1988). The structure of the series is the following; first, the concept of masculinity is discussed. Second, the connection between colonialism and masculinity is established. Third the role of marginal colonial masculinity in Hollywood movies is analysed. The use of gendered stereotypical images in film has a long standing connection. Fourth, the masculinities in the movie Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) are analysed and placed in the colonial context. In order to confirm the ideal of the hegemonic male's superiority or his masculinity, the marginalised masculinity is shown as conquered or lacking.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Hegemony and Bones

I thought that because I was aware (through my study) of the hegemonies we have in our society; the masculine, heterosexual and white,  which are just a few of them, I would not fall into the pitfalls of them. Seems that I was wrong. They are present in our society everywhere. The ideas that the various TV-show brains of Hollywood create around them is a perfect example. Where else in the world are stereotypes and ideals exploited to such an extend that in Hollywood. Movies are often merely the use of stereotypes and hegemonies.
Some try to make fun of these stereotypes but do not invalidate these stereotypes. A prime example is the TV-show community. Where Abed regularly makes comments and states movie references reminding us about these stereotypes.
Abed: Troy, make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end.
However community at the same time enforces them through other episodes. In the paintball episode in season one Troy is the first one to go. Jeff Winger the guy who has the most characteristics of all the hegemonies combines wins the game and is the hero by giving the price to the disadvantaged. He is white, male and obviously heterosexual through his sexual encounter with Britta in the episode. (You even see the hegemony of Jeff at play here, I know his last name and from the other people I don’t)
But back to the topic at hand. On Friday I saw the Bones finale of season six. I like the show but I was always critiquing it on its use of masculine stereotypes and masculine hegemony. Booth is the hegemonic masculine ideal that it is almost nauseating. Physically strong, a war hero, responsible, world wise, family man, strong and silent, not overly affections, concerned with his heterosexuality, ethical… just sum it up. Women are portrayed as subordinate to this masculine ideal.
Yes, Bones is a character that is very independent and successful, however she is portrayed as emotional distant and socially awkward person. And that those characteristics is the only reason that she became successful and achieved an career in forensic anthropology. The message it portraits is that career women have something wrong with them. Cam is another example, a women who is successful but she had to give up the notion of family to get her career. Later in her life she regrets this when her “biological clock” is starting to tick and she adopts a teenage girl who was orphaned. This shows the message that is portrait by the hegemonic masculinity that every woman wants and needs a family to care for. Caring is natural. Didn’t Bones want Booths baby because he was the masculine ideal. 
In Fridays episode Angela gave birth to a baby boy and she talked with Bones about her experiences. Instead of being horrified at the message it conveyed, that of the naturality of motherhood and loving your child. Hollywood got under my skin but also under Angela’s. She was the best character in the bunch. She beyond the bound of existing hegemonic boundaries. Of race, sexuality, ethnicity and gender roles.  Now she is reduced to a single thing a Mother. First Cam and now she. Women are to be Mothers is the message.
 Is it my individual preference or are there societal influences at play. This made me think of the hegemonic masculinity in our society and I realised its influence on me.