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.