The films Monuments Men (2014) and The Matrix (1999) are films that slightly allude to hegemonic masculinity. According to Sharon Bird, hegemonic masculinity is defined in relation to women and their subordination (Bird 121). Yet within both movies analysed, there is a lack of female representation. There is a discrepancy in the ratio of male to female in both movies, therefore very little subjugation is involved. Yet there are other ways to determine and protect hegemonic masculinity, Schrock and Schwalbe label these ways as manhood acts (Schrock, Schwalbe 111). They state that manhood acts include; expressing desire for females and claiming privilege through gestures and jokes that signify aggression. There are some examples of these components in both films but prove to be very minuscule in relation the entire film.
“Boys also learn that they should feel, or at least express, sexual desire for girls.” (Shrock, Schwalbe 110). This emasculates boys into being men or in other cases protects the hegemonic masculinity of men (Shrock, Schwalbe 110). Within Monuments Men, there is little representation of women, let alone the sexualization of women in the film. The closest we see the sexual subjugation of women is when Claire (Cate Blanchett) offers James (Matt Damon) to spend the night with her. Claire does so after having built a relationship with James, therefore the offer is seen as a sincere one and not as lustful. In the end James declines her offer in an honourable manner so the sexualization of women in the film is essentially forgotten. With The Matrix, the only sexual desire expressed is through Cypher, the villain of the movie. His lust is expressed towards the end when Trinity is unconscious on the ship. His sexual advances towards Trinity’s unconscious body can be seen as a way to enforce his male dominance on not only Trinity but on the rest of the crew as well. Cypher’s sexual desires and attempts at asserting his male dominance over the crew essentially helps villainise hegemonic masculinity.
Bird states that “the maintenance of hegemonic masculinity is explored through investigation of male homosocial interactions.” (Bird 121). This appears to be true with Monuments Men where almost every interaction is male to male. There is an exception to this with Claire’s character but she is quickly dismissed later in the movie, after all the movie is called Monuments Men. In regards to the emotional detachment and competitiveness Bird states to maintain hegemonic masculinity (Bird 122), there is very little within Monuments Men. The protagonists tend to appear emotionally attached when thoughts of their family are involved. Other moments include when someone of their team dies, their death goes down in memory when the protagonists commemorate them at the end of the film. The only competiveness witnessed within the protagonists’ circle are the clever quips made between Richard (Bill Murray) and Preston (Bob Balaban). The Matrix also breaks down the construct of hegemonic masculinity through Trinity’s character. Many times throughout the film she is depicted as stronger than Neo. For example, it is her that saves him at the end and at other points in the movie where Neo is vulnerable.
Both Monuments Men and The Matrix allude to hegemonic masculinity. Monuments Men maintains homosociality through it’s inclusive male to male interactions within the protagonists’ circle but fails to complete the other components that protect hegemonic masculinity according to Bird. The Matrix essentially villainises hegemonic masculinity through Cypher. He almost becomes a symbol of hegemonic masculinity through his expression of competiveness with Neo and sexual desire for Trinity. Monuments Men comes off as a very modest film that doesn’t directly protect male dominance while The Matrix indirectly combats it.
Bird, S. R. “WELCOME TO THE MEN’S CLUB: Homosociality and the Maintenance of Hegemonic Masculinity.” Gender & Society 10.2 (1996): 120-32. Web.
Schrock, Douglas. “Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts.” Multi-Culural Film: An Anthology. Ed. Michael Schwalbe. Boton: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2013. N. pag. Print.
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