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Hard Bodies


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Susan Jeffords is a professor of English at the University of Washington and director of Women's Studies. She is the author of The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War, and the editor of Seeing Through the Media: The Persian Gulf War (forthcoming, Rutgers University Press).


Offering close and intriguing readings of movies like Rambo and Robocop , Jeffords ( The Remasculinization of America ) entertainingly argues that action films with white male heroes ``portrayed many of the same narratives . . . that made the Reagan Revolution possible.'' While Jeffords acknowledges that many films--like E.T. and Blade Runner --countered the dominant ideology, she defensibly chooses to focus on some of the biggest hits. Thus, she finds links between the ``hard body,'' or macho, militarism of Rambo and Reagan's attacks on Libya and Grenada and suggests that Rambo's wounding implies the possibility of repair and regeneration--i.e., the nation can recover from the wounds of the Carter years. In the late 1980s, she observes, masculine sensitivity replaced machismo; films like Casualties of War suggest that white men can still lead us to justice without the wimpishness of the Carter era. She concludes that Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven signals the current masculine model, an action-oriented idealism that invokes the family to justify foreign intervention. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)

The ``Reagan Revolution,'' the author contends, influenced many of the popular action films of the 1980s. The Rambo (1985) , Terminator (1984), and Die Hard (1988) series all featured hard-bodied heroes who singlehandedly fought ``against the bureaucracies that had lost touch with the people.'' The author also examines father-son relationships in the Star Wars (1977) and Back to the Future (1985) series and the ``white men save the day'' approach of Ca sualties of War (1989) and Mississippi Burning (1988). This volume is aimed squarely at an academic audience, which should have fun chewing on its highly debatable connections between political styles and popular entertainment. For most academic collections.-- Thomas Wiener, formerly with ``American Film''

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