Date of this Version
Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 15:2 (2018), pp. 161–178.
American cinema has recently favored representations of white men as victims of socioeconomic and political change. Recent scholarship on white masculinity suggests that representations of male victimhood enable white men to disavow that hegemonic white masculinity still fundamentally structures society. This essay argues that Hollywood’s wounded man similarly provides white masculinity with stable footing. I illustrate how the unintelligibility of screen masculinity evades criticism and, further, how melancholic male dramas nurture a traumatic attachment to victimhood. Examining the film Foxcatcher (2014), I show how unmasked portraits of white male victimhood function as counterparts to the hard-bodied action hero. The filmmaker’s effort to parse the distinction between material and superficial wounds reifies the experience of noble suffering as a superlative expression of aggrieved white manhood. Foxcatcher’s fragmented portrayal of white masculinity illustrates the elasticity of victimhood even where “crisis” suggests that white masculinity is open to revision.