Sunday, April 22, 2012

Masculinity in the Media

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The relationship between masculinity and the media first came into focus in the 170s and gained increased scholarly attention in the late 180s. It continued to generate work that theorizes, interprets and evaluates masculinity with or in the media. In modern Western societies, it is considered ‘masculine’ to be aggressive, independent and active. There is a considerable debate as to whether these qualities really are sexual characteristics of the gender, whether they are biologically or socially determined, and in what ways they maintain male power.

Masculinity is defined as the state of an organism reflecting or displaying the appearances, traits and behavior pattern characteristic of the male species. As defined, this whole ‘masculinity’ does not necessarily implicate gender. Many societies have ascribed different and distinctive qualities to men. However Hollywood filmmakers seem to emphasize on the whole idea of masculinity in the male gender. The two films Disclosure and Ocean’s Eleven, that I’m about to analyze tells a story on Hollywood’s perspective of men.


In the real world a woman has the upper hand when it comes to sexual harassment. In this film however, the whole Hollywood perspective of masculinity changes everything. In other words, the men have to ‘win’.

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In this film, sexual harassment is manifested in many ways. The power of men over women is exhibited in many linguistic senses. For example, Meredith harasses Tom and when she does not get what she wants, she gets mad. That particular scene portrays women in a new light due to the fact that this time, it’s the woman who wants to get sexually involved with an unwilling man. Not another clich�. This scene pleases the male viewers but might be insulting to female viewers. Pathetic is the idea that women are equally harassing men but any cultural analysis must take into account the intersecting levels of power in society.

In this mans world, there are two kinds of men real men, and inconvenient men. A real man is one whose economic power, social status or virility makes him sexually desirable to women and in this case, Tom falls into that category. Tom is portrayed as a charismatic individual brimming with confidence.

His wife, Susan is Hollywood’s presentation of what a ‘good wife’ should be. Any feminist would disagree on the way she deals with the situations; her husband cheated on her and she covered up for me without questioning him first? Her role can be viewed from two different perspectives altogether. It’s either she is a magnanimous individual or just someone who is too timid to stand up against her husband, afraid by doing so, it might jeopardize the marriage.

Catherine, Tom’s lawyer, is portrayed as a smart and manipulative individual. The fact that she actually won the case of female sexually harassing the male, emphasize on her capabilities as a female lawyer, supposedly fighting for female rights but ironically she helped Tom because believed it was fair. In other words, fair treatment for both male and female rights in sexual related crimes.

Meredith’s role in this film might be an insult to most women. She’s being portrayed as a ‘sexual object’ to seduce Tom upon orders from Bob, her boss. She uses body, to get what she wants. There are tons of camera shots of her body flaunting her sexuality. Her ‘I would not accept defeat character’ is somehow taunting, it generates a great feeling when justice is about to be delivered in style.

Bob, Tom’s boss is a great as a classic ‘slimeball’ type CEO who does not care a whit about his employees. He is portrayed as a shallow person who is so self-centered. This character might be insulting to both women and men. His role is stereo-typical but it displays all traits of masculinity.

Clearly, a woman can have more power over a man in certain situations, but the real issue is the prevalence of male power in this society, not a few cases of the contrary. In Disclosure, inaccurate portrayal is the idea that the male harassment of females has declined to that females are equally harassing men in the society. The relevance of visual harassment to understand the male gaze cannot be overstated.

Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven is actually a stylish remake the same film in the 60s. From then till now the Hollywood’s perspective of women has not changed. All involved in they robbery in the new remake are still men. The definition of masculinity; Is the fact of being a man or having qualities considered typical of a man. I am stuck in that sentence. What qualities are considered a typical of a man and if a woman has those qualities, can she be considered masculine? Is Hollywood still under-estimating the female gender?

Danny Ocean is the man behind all the planning. He is portrayed as a man with charm, confidence, class and charisma. Rust is one of the few male characters that are put on display for women to be gawked at. His sexy good-looks accompanied by less than perfect lighting please the female viewers. The gaze is on both the male characters.

The only female character in the film is Tess, Danny’s ex-wife. She is portrayed as a classic ‘feminine’ woman. The low camera angel shots made her look intimidating. Especially during that particular shot where she was walking down the stairs. She was not putting her sexuality on display to please the viewers. Instead she was a classy and sexy woman. She was brought out in a different light. In other words, female characters do not necessarily need to put their bodies on display to be viewed as beautiful.

Benedict the casino owner has everything every male viewer in the audience dreams of. He’s rich and has a beautiful woman, Tess.

This film entertains while it runs but never really engages or excites the viewers. There are too many male characters in the film and it is demeaning to the female viewers. My individual opinion; are women so incapable in the Hollywood filmmakers’ eyes?

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