Return to Syllabus   Dr. Andrew Wood
Office: HGH 210; phone: (408) 924-5378

Tripp, D. (2005). "Wake up!" Narratives of masculine epiphany in millennial cinema. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 22(2), 181-188.

Note: These comments are not designed to "summarize" the reading. Rather, they are available to highlight key ideas that will emerge in our classroom discussion. As always, it's best to read the original text to gain full value from the course.

Tripp examines “masculine epiphany” films that address a longing of some men to reclaim their primal natures. These films critique, “the changing practices of corporate culture in late Twentieth-century post-industrial America” -- a trend we might presume has continued into the first decade of the Twenty-first century. Tripp contextualizes his analysis of this genre with a brief discussion of psychoanalytic theory, which presupposes a state of alienation brought on by language (among other things) and our subsequent encounters with the world through symbols rather than direct experience.

Tactics used by men to reclaim their “real” identities begin with a dismissal of their fake selves. Thus, protagonists in American Beauty and Fight Club quit their corporate jobs. Similally, the heroes of Dark City and The Matrix wake up after being put to sleep by monsters (robots in one film, aliens in the other) that stand in for post-industrial capitalism. Of course, these tactics succeed only to a limited extent. Leading men in American Beauty and Fight Club must die or by disfigured to experience their final release from illusion. In Dark City and The Matrix, the heroes survive and triumph over their enemies -- but they must become mutated to do so. The author relates to this remediation: “the paradoxical desire to transcend mediation through the use of media” (p. 185) [see also DeLuca and Peeples]. Thus, in these films, heroes their masculinity only by becoming what they fight.

From this point, Tripp notes how gender identity is always mediated and performed -- not drawn from an essential form but emerging from a perception that is mediated by popular culture texts, ritualized practices, daily utterances -- and other macro- and micro-practices. Here, Tripp adds: “In this respect, masculinity, like William Gibson’s cyberspace, is . . . a consensual hallucination” (p. 186). The fact that this hallucination seeks to be consensual but never is accepted by everyone explains, according to the author, why so many popular culture texts work so hard to define how masculinity should be “done.”

[Return to Syllabus]