Week 7: Representing the ‘Crisis of Masculinity’
‘Crisis Points’ in Twentieth-Century French Masculinity
- 1900-20s? - First-wave feminism
- 1914-18 – World War I
- 1939-45: World War II. 1940-44: Occupation and the Vichy State
‘If one were to seek to make an overarching statement about the evolution of [French] male stardom from
the 1930s to the 1950s one might suggest that, having helped to embody patriarchal dominance in the
1930s to the 1950s, male stars served to reveal a crisis of national virility in the wake of the collapse of
1940 before being enlisted in the service of a misogynistic reassertion of masculine power in the postwar
years.’ Martin O’Shaughnessy, ‘Cinematic Stardom, Shifting Masculinities’, p.191 (extra reading)
From 1930s authoritarian patriarchs to the 1940s ‘homme doux’….
- Post-war US-led modernisation: the European Recovery Program (Marshall Pan)
A bout de souffle,
Godard 1959
- 1960s/70s: Second-wave feminism - increased demands for equality and for sexual
fulfilment. Reflected in the US in Shumway’s ‘relationship stories’.
- What about France?
Belmondo into the 1970s and to mid-1980s: ‘the dominant figure in the French box
office’ (O’Shaughnessy, 197).
And see Bard on 1980s backlash.
- 1960? onwards: late capitalism and increasing technological advancement: postFordism; the technological (digital, information…) revolution – thematised in 1990s
and 2000s cinema especially
Thurs 6 November
Widespread narrative of French national identity in crisis, going back to the decline of the
empire, most recently with the nation perceived as ‘threatened’ from within and without
by immigration, Europeanisation and especially globalisation.
E.g. La France qui tombe, Nicolas Bavarez 2004
Quand la France disparaît du monde!, Nicolas Tenzer 2008
L’Identité malheureuse, Alain Finkielkraut 2013
‘Le regret d’un âge d’or est peut-être plus simplement le signe de l’affaiblissement […] de la position
relative des hommes dans la société française. Depuis la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale, et
encore plus clairement depuis quinze ans, leur pouvoir est contesté par les femmes. C’est un
movement qui pourrait être vécu sur le mode du partage et nous réjouir.’
Valérie Charolles, ‘Un déclin très masculin,’ Le Monde 22-13 juin 2014, p. 17.
N.B. Women made up 46% of the French workforce in 2005.
Figures sourced from INSEE France Accessed 8 January 2013.
1990s onwards: Third-wave feminism/postfeminism
Women’s increasing access to empowerment increasingly impacting on social
organisation and cultural production
Narratives of female rebellion…
and male riposte
Attal–Gainsbourg: together nearly twenty years,
with three children
For Steve Neale and Frank Krutnik, comedy typically operates through a
combination ‘identification and distanciation’.
Neale and Krutnik, Popular Film and Television Comedy. London: Routledge, 1990, p.
’[M]elodramatic characters are far more likely than comedic characters to
experience the mood or “feel” of their world in ways that match viewers’
experience of it’
Deborah Thomas, Beyond Genre: Melodrama, Comedy and Romance in Hollywood
Films. Moffatt: Cameron and Hollis, 2000, p. 13.
Ma femme est une actrice