Hegemonic Masculinity in Film

1970s Jack Nicholson is THE man. He wins everyone over and gives the appearance of not trying. He walks into the room and pushes the needle off the record player. He looks incredible in clothes. He says something completely terrible and insulting and then is forgiven because he smiles to acknowledge that he knows he is being terrible. What he wants he just takes and if he can’t get it he destroys property. He is charming but he is also evil. Are all charming people evil? Isn’t that sort of what charm is about?

Jack Nicholson believes that men are innately different from women (“cunt…can’t understand normal thinking”) He thinks men have egos that overpower everything around them and appetites that require constant maintenance to be restrained. He does not understand that this is the human condition. It would be insulting to say that he is too old to learn this, but I suspect it is something he has secretly known all along, and that most of being Jack Nicholson is pretending to be “Jack Nicholson” for the enjoyment of people wishing to live vicariously through his imagined lifestyle.

– Molly Lambert.

Jack Nicholson’s celluloid persona are exclusive examples of hegemonic masculinity. That is, a society’s idealised vision of what it means to be a “man”. Raywyn Connell argues that films are one of the primary vehicles for perpetuating hegemonic masculinity. Jack Nicholson’s gender performances in most of his films represent what mainstream society expects of all men: living out the heterosexual fantasy of having sex with as many women as possible and assuming power over women and other “weaker” men. The films that have made Nicholson famous also embody heteronormativity: the presumption that heterosexuality is natural and normal. To be a heterosexual man is to be actively seeking sex with women, but only with emotional detachment, even when this is self-destructive or damaging to others.

The real Jack Nicholson we can never know. But his films represent a patriarchal fantasy.

Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider and Carnal Knowledge.

Quote ia: This Recording.

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