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)