War, Myth, and Masculinity in the U.S.
In his documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Chris Bell begins with the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s carnivalesque version of geopolitics, as Hulk Hogan battled The Iron Sheik during the 1984 season. Bell tells a story about his two brothers on steroids, but the film is also about what makes a man manly in the U.S., and how athleticism and militarism have been intertwined to confuse, amuse and distract. (Bell points out that Congress spent more hours during 2005 investigating and discussing steroid use in Major League Baseball than on the response to Hurricane Katrina or the Iraq War.) In this class, we will consider myths of masculinity and war in the U.S., using film, history, historiography, and literature. Readings will include War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (John Dower); Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man (Susan Faludi); and Black Sexual Politics (Patricia Hill Collins). Films will include Modern Times, High Noon, The Fog of War (documentary) and Bigger, Stronger, Faster (documentary). Assignments include participation in discussion and 2-3 page close-reading papers on the reading or film for that week.