I started thinking about
films seriously when I took
up Film Studies as an elective while pursuing my Master’s in literature at St Aloysius College, Thrissur, Kerala. I worked on a proposal on films and gender studies and applied for the research programme at IIT-Madras in December 2010.
I chose cinema because it has a phenomenal reach and penetration and it can truly capture the range and impact of popular culture. Cinema powerfully engages with social realities, especially in terms of gender roles and identities. As for my specific interest in the area, I am working on an analysis of performances in masculinity in contemporary Hollywood.
I will be doing an in-depth study of Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson, and will be analysing the narratives of their texts and subtexts that may exist within; with special emphasis on representations/ performances of masculinity. The traditional heroes of Hollywood narratives (John Wayne, Cary Grant, James Cagney, etc) were often the archetypical male characters figuring as the lone ranger, the noir sleuth, the patron/mentor/father and/or the quintessential ‘Man.’
Films and characters like Rambo, Indiana Jones, Superman and John McClane (Die Hard series) were the touchstones to re-assess hegemonic male roles, which largely remain stereotypes in Hollywood.
However, questions were raised over the uncertainty regarding the ‘redemptive power of masculine prowess’ and found voice in the post-Vietnam films like Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon and Raging Bull. While reigning the ring was the ultimate mark of masculinity in Hollywood for a long time (The Rocky franchise), recent films like The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky) and The Fighter (David O Russell) interrogate the notion of ‘the fighter’ and re-examines the very performance of fighting in the ring. So there are numerous facets of contemporary Hollywood that can be analysed and examined.
In course of my research, I will try and understand how masculinities have defined and represented mainstream Hollywood cinema, and how the American film hero evolves in order to accommodate moral ambiguities.