Compare and Contrast the Representation of Masculinity of John Wayne’s Rio Bravo (1959) and Die Hard (1988).

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Narratives of the hero action has sustained the interests of audiences across the ‘changing space and time’ of popular culture and has become a ‘stalwart genre’ (Shimpach, 2010:30). This study will explore the construction of hegemonic masculinity by comparing the representation of heroic masculinity between John McClane (Die Hard, 1988) and John Wayne (Rio Bravo, 1959). It will examine: the framing of the physical body, the development of intelligence, the role of emotion and the depiction of heroes in relation to those around them. Die Hard and Rio Bravo depict heroic law enforcers, an American image of masculinity. Examining Rio Bravo and Die Hard diachronically will conceptualise the historical negotiation of hegemonic masculinity in …show more content…
This relationship between stature, authority and power is a cultural expectation of masculinity. To be powerful is to be able to exert physical superiority over those around you. In Die Hard (1988), McClanes stature is not a prominent feature of his masculinity. At only 5 feet 11 inches, John McClane (Bruce Willis) falls short of the towering figure of John Wayne.

Thus, Rio Bravo attributes symbolic power to John Wayne and his representation of hegemonic masculinity. His dominant height has been referred to phallic symbolism in gender theory. The establishing shot of the morning sunrise frames the western landscape and centres on a tall cactus protruding upwards which dominates the frame. The frame then dissolves into John Wayne transferring the phallic symbol of the cactus. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (2000:191) in Feminist Phenomenology argues that heroic male figures such John Wayne cannot expose their bodies as it disassembles the representation of phallic power. Phallic power can only exist when it is hidden as male genitalia cannot represent the expectations conveyed such symbolism.

Western stars are often celebrated for their attractiveness – ‘clear eyes, strong chins, handsome faces and stout frames’ (Mitchell, 1996). However, in Rio Bravo John Wayne has predominantly rugged features – blunt large nose,…

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