Talk | Tim Edwards - Western Promise






Concern has been raised for some decades in relation to the shifting nature, meanings and potential consequences of “masculinity”.  Whilst generally recognised as a social construct, interpretations of rise of a new apparently more narcissistically driven or “feminised” masculinities offer little consensus as to their origin or implication.  This paper (and its attendant presentation) will offer a new way of looking at these issues through the lens of film and the gaze.  Laura Mulvey’s enormously influential work here on the gendering of visual pleasure has gone far from unchallenged yet there remains scope to re-interrogate this, particularly in the light of Willemen’s frictions and, rather more sociologically, the importance of differing subject positions in relation to desire and identification.  There are three key sections to this:

  1. A critical discussion of existing work on the gaze and more particularly how this applies to differing patterns of desire and identification more widely.  Thus, how may a more feminine-identified yet homosexually desiring gay male “read” imagery that presents men, women or both as sexual objects of the gaze?  And how may Willemen’s work on the fourth look affect this further.
  2. The working through of some key examples – particularly the rise of Ryan Gosling and his work with Nicholas Winding Refn – to illustrate and analyse the workings of desire, identification, differing subject positioning and the gaze in more detail.
  3.  A consideration of the wider social and sexual political significance and implications of these processes for our understandings of masculinities.

My key contention throughout this is that whilst little is fixed here, these remain primarily western concerns predicated upon western anxieties and that filmic media both reflects and attempts to resolve far wider concerns relating to the shifting constitution of hegemonic western masculinities.  Similarly the gaze within cinema becomes the look of and between men outside.


Tim Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester, UK.  He has researched, taught and published widely and internationally in the fields of sexual politics, masculinities, identities, consumer culture and fashion.  He is the author of (selective): Erotics & Politics (Routledge, 1994), Men in the Mirror (Cassell, 1997), and Cultures of Masculinity (Routledge, 2006) and is currently working on the meanings of money, a new book on sexual politics for Sage and researching internet dating culture.


  *There will be simultaneous translation.