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Textual Analysis

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Deconstruct and compare two texts representing aspects of masculinities.

The starting point for understanding masculinity lies, not in its contrast with feminity, but in the asymmetric dominance and prestige which accrues to males in this society” (Sattel1983:119 cited in Whitehead and Barrett 2001:112). The portrayal of men in social institutions such as the workplace and the media, to an extent fortifies the conventional notion of men and women in society. Women are usually represented in the form of male sexual desires and conquests, therefore regarding them as inferior to the male sex, even when portrayed in an dominant and physical nature, the are still depicted to be substandard to their male counterparts. For example the main character Xena in the television series, Xena: Warrior Princess. The television series places a greater emphasis on her females attributes such as her body rather than her fighting and warrior skills, in comparison cultural depiction of men are consistently constructed highlighting their self-reliance and self-control nature. This idea of hegemonic masculinity may not been the most prevalent form of masculinity for all men, but rather the most socially sanctioned.

Edley and Wetherell (1995) argue that in most cultures in modern society there are characteristics that exemplify a set of themes which relate to men and masculinities. These images of masculinities represent below can be said to reinforce common ideals about what it is meant to be a ‘real’ man.  I have decided to deconstruct two texts which provide different interpretations about the meaning of masculinities. One being the fictional characters of James Bond, assisted by an image of Daniel Craig and the other showing a man in a posture that shows him working.  They do not represent a single consistent notion of what it means to be a man, but rather presents sometimes contradictory notions about the meaning of masculinity.

The character of James Bond has provided a dominant and striking image of masculinity over recent decades. “Bond is an archetypical hero, willing to risk his own life in order to defeat evil” (Edley and Wetherell 1995:132). In popular culture the image of James Bond is portrayed as a sophisticated and charming gentleman with a sense of style, a touch charisma and a taste for the ‘finer things’ in life. In terms of his love life, Bond is depicted has a ‘romantic’ womaniser, who under no, designer circumstances falls in love. The image of Daniel Craig, show this by the way that he dressed, with the tuxedo, designer watch and smart cufflinks.

Over recent decades, one may argues that the fictional character of James Bond has reflected the changing views of masculinity.  Sean Connery, the very first Bond, provided an image of man's man of the time, with his hairy chest and chauvinistic machismo.  Sub-sequent actors to have taken the James bond mantle such as Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan have created a much more polished and sophisticated 'edge' to the role of James Bond.  In a new millennium, in which many scholars have depicted a ‘crisis’ in masculinity, the image of James Bond has evolved yet again, this time portrayed by Daniel Craig, in  the movie Casino Royale depicted James Bond has a more ‘rough’ and violent character with a cold demeanour.  

This Bond can be said to represent masculinity in a post-modern society, in a world in which the definition of masculinity is increasingly scrutinized, for example the practice of homosexuality has increasingly  become more socially accepted and the impact of feminism challenging the concept of manhood and masculinity.  Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond is similar to that of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of masculinity in the old ‘spaghetti’ westerns, in which a rough, raw and rugged characters who seems to be secure with his masculine ideals in the ‘face’ of feminity.

The second image represents a different form of masculinity that of the cerebral assassin which is the fictional character of James Bond. This text shows a physical and human notion of masculinity. The man capture in this text has his face directed away from the camera therefore placing a greater emphasis on his bodily features such as his biceps and triceps. The fact that this image portrays a man engaging in physical activity provides us with an image of the male sex having a great athletic potential furthermore showing the body in an active posture highlights the muscles at work. This text presents a form of masculinity defined by brute force rather than placing an emphasis on mental and intellectual ability as portrayed by the fictional character James Bond.

These two images are similar, in the aspect that they represent what may be deemed positive depictions of masculinity. “Masculine Identity is lived out in flesh but is fashioned in the imagination” (Dawson 1991 cited in Edley and Wetherell 1995:157).  The notion of masculine identity can be said to construct the male sex to be clear thinking and mentally strong as opposed to the emotional ‘unstableness’ of their female counterparts. Media representation of men in motion pictures exposes their male subject to be unemotional and mentally inferior “men’s power for some while now, has been bound up with their supposed immunity from emotions. To a great extent what signifies their difference and superiority over women.” (Edley and Wetherell 1995:157).

The rendering of James Bond in big budget motion pictures for many decades represents the ‘ultimate’ male fantasy. The portrayal of this character however has been consistently altered to emulate the level of change in the relationship between males and their female counterparts in society, yet the film still remains highly alluring to the male sex.

Even though media depiction has over emphasised significant traits of masculinity and minimized others, the premise of a macho fantasy world still remains with the premise of violence and sex.  Media Representation of James Bond therefore can also be said to replicate societal changes in the empowerment of the female sex, especially when ones takes into consideration recent motion pictures, in which the character of James Bond is a sub-ordinate to character of M, who is now played by the female actor Dame Judi Dench. However where this has showed such empowerment, the authoritative nature of masculine ideals still remain prevalent,  in as such James Bond masculine identity still remains, unaltered by female intervention.

This image of a man engaging in physical labour also highlights the traditional blue-collar work of working class The image of the athletic male, engaging in industrial work can be said to relate to traditional working class ideology about masculinity, in which a man was very much expected to be instrumental in society especially in the private of the family and to a greater extent the public sphere of the workplace.  Gilmore (1980) argue that eventhough the notion of masculinity varies in many societies and cultures, the definition has some basis of similarities across many societies, stating that man are expected to be the breadwinners and guardians of society. This image of a man working highlights traditional ideology of the workplace being a place predominately for the male sex engaging in strenuous and labouring activity. One must note that this heightened expression of masculine identity of the body has increasingly becomes associated with that of black male bodies, this is usually connected to the image of black athlete such as boxers.

Connell (1995) argues that masculinity can take a variety of forms,  experiences of masculinity is varied between individuals in all society however the characteristics associated with hegemonic masculinity such as aggression and self-control bolster the male oriented control over social institutions.(O’Donnell 2001:168). The portrayal of fictional characters such as James Bond and the depiction of men engaging in labour intensive only highlighted such meanings of masculinity. The representation of men in popular culture informs social actors about the hegemonic meanings of masculine identity. The popularity of comics and magazines has become a tool underline such as ideas of variations with masculinity to become emphasized. For example magazine such as For Him Magazine (FHM) features images of muscular models such the Carlson twins, dressed in a range of costumes in a collection of muscular poses yet also advertise ‘feminine’ accessories such as the an men’s perfume.  Popular magazines can be said to promote traditional masculinity, whilst celebrating male ‘activities’ such as gun, fast cars and sexual exploits, yet within these media representation of men several images of masculinity are promoted compared to that of the previous historical illustration of men being association with labour-intensive work and the ability to operate in a rational manner.

“Cultural representations of/about men vary, both historically and culturally, between societies and between different groupings of men within any one society”(Pilcher and Whelehn 2004:83As mainstream society has evolved the definition of masculine identity has also evolved also, the portrayal of fictional character of James Bond has made this more noticeable, an emphasis has been placed in mainstream on the new man “the man who appears to have engaged in a re-negotiation of domestic involvements and who actively engages in child-care and child responsibilities.”(Morgan 2001:228). Eventhough neither text shows this ideology, it is important to note that the notion of masculine identity is becoming redefined, as sexual liberation for women increase men are increasingly required to become emotional beings; someone with feeling and desires   and with the increasing rates of obesity man now also very much required to ‘stay in shape’ as ever before. “The influence of feminism may of course make them less certain of the desirability of what they see as tier masculinity”(Segal 1990:290)

Referencing

Bibliography

Edley, N and Wetherell, M (1995) Men in Perspective: Practice, Power and Identity, Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf

Fabius Kiesling, S (2001) Power and Language of Men, in Whitehead, S.M and Barrett, F.J (eds) The Masculinities Reader, Polity

Gilmore, D (1990) Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity, Kingsley Trust association

Morgan, D (2001) Family Gender and Masculinities in Whitehead, S.M and Barrett, F.J (eds) The Masculinities Reader, Polity

O’Donnell, M (2001) Classical and Contemporary Sociology: Theory and Issues, Hodder and Stoughton

Pilcher, J and Whelehan, I (2004) 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies, Sage

Segal, L (1990) Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men, Virago Press

Images

http://www.sybarites.org/wp-content/bond1sea.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Lewis_Hine_Power_house_mechanic_working_on_steam_pump.jpg

Appendix A- Daniel Craig in his portrayal as James Bond

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Appendix B- Image of a man engaging in Industrial labour

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