Monday, February 15, 2016

Core Post # 2 A Haunting Image of Masculinity in Crisis

The movie poster for North by Northwest depicts Cary Grant midfall, with the lovely Eva Marie Saint holding the gun. Cohan calls this "a haunting image of masculinity in crisis" and goes on to describe how the movie poster induces anxiety in the film's audience that it doesn't quite recover from, despite Grant's portrayal at the end of the film. Their roles are reversed, where Saint is dangling precariously off of Mount Rushmore and it is Grant (or rather, Roger Thornhill) who reestablishes his "manhood" by saving the damsel in distress.

The "emasculated male" is a popular theme in Hitchcock films. We see it in Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and even Psycho. But Cohan's analysis of the movie poster for North By Northwest suggests that the issue of masculinity is at the forefront of this movie. Roger Thornhill's masculinity is in crisis from the opening scene up until the fake shooting scene. Cohan argues that it isn't until the George Kaplan persona dies that Roger finally starts to act and take charge in the film.

Cohan points out that the narrative emasculates Roger Thornhill on multiple fronts. He's a mama's boy, he's twice divorced, and falls for the traditional femme fatale--seductress turned betrayer, turned mate. Most of what Cohan points out as emasculation for this 1950s character is still applicable today and in modern day film. Seth Rogen is undermined by his mother, Barbra Streisand, in The Guilt Trip, Michael Douglas falls for the femme fatale in Basic Instinct which jeopardizes his case, and (this might be cheating because it's TV) Ross Geller is a twice divorced romantic frequently emasculated by his own clumsy search for Mrs. Right.

It would be interesting to see, if North by Northwest was ever remade, what modern day actor would take on the role of Roger Thornhill OR if the narrative would be altered slightly to make Thornhill a more modern, more masculine hero.

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