Dr. Jan Osborn
In the current era of Hollywood, superhero action films dominate the box office. Recently, the characters have come under fire, with maverick filmmaker James Cameron claiming that they “all act like they are in college.” Thor, the only character to have four standalone movies, represents the worst of these issues. He is violent, dominant, emotionally closed off, treated like a joke, and his image perpetuates unrealistic body standards. This begs the question: what is a better representation of masculinity in the action genre? Hong Kong films released between the ‘70s and ‘90s offer a better example, with the melodramatic approach showcasing brotherhood as messy and emotional. Starting at the beginning with A Better Tomorrow (1986), the law is blurred to show the complexity of the relationships between the characters, in particular the criminal protagonist and his police officer brother. Instead of bantering like the Avengers, the characters in these films hug, cry and even tickle each other. Unfortunately, increasing strictness in censorship standards have hindered the Hong Kong film industry since the city was handed back to China in 1997. With Raging Fire (2021), a cop and his former protegee, now a criminal, are pitted against each other in a duel to the death. The black and white morality of the law versus lawbreakers found in the genre is now more in line with Hollywood’s films, but the films still exist to remind the audiences of a more positive representation of masculinity in the action genre.
Singer, William, "Loyalty, Honor and Betrayal: Masculinity in the Heroic Bloodshed Film" (2023). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 593.