Terror, Gender, and Monstrous Others in American Film Post-9/11
A challenge to claims about the popular project of masculine redemption in recent genre films
Troubling Masculinities: Terror, Gender, and Monstrous Others in American Film Post-9/11 is the first multigenre study of representations of masculinity following the emergence of violent terror as a plot element in American cinema after September 11, 2001. Across a broad range of subgenres—including disaster melodrama, monster movies, postapocalyptic science fiction, discovered footage and home invasion horror, action-thrillers, and frontier westerns—author Glen Donnar examines the impact of “terror-Others,” from Arab terrorists to giant monsters, especially in relation to cinematic representations in earlier periods of national turmoil.
Donnar demonstrates that the reassertion of masculinity and American national identity in post-9/11 cinema repeatedly unravels across genres. Taking up critical arguments about Hollywood’s attempts to resolve male crisis through Orientalizing figures of terror, he shows how this failure reflects an inability to effectively extinguish the threat or frightening difference of terror. The heroes in these movies are unable to heal themselves or restore order, often becoming as destructive as the threats they are supposed to be fighting.
Donnar concludes that interrelated anxieties about masculinity and nationhood continue to affect contemporary American cinema and politics. By showing how persistent these cultural fears are, the volume offers an important counternarrative to this supposedly unprecedented moment in American history.
Combining superb close textual analysis and wider historical and cultural contextualization, Troubling Masculinities explores the way masculinity, national identity, and monstrosity are used to resurrect America and preserve patriarchy, even as they are seen to wither and unravel. Analyzing such diverse films as World Trade Center, Cloverfield, The Strangers, I Am Legend, and The Kingdom, this book is a must-have addition to the literature on 9/11 cinema.- Sean Redmond, professor of screen and design, Deakin University