Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Kelli Fuery

Second Advisor

Nam Lee

Third Advisor

Leah Aldridge


This thesis studies the emergence of a renegotiated masculinity in the 1990s predicated on the expression and containment of anxieties around White masculinity and an appropriation of the melodramatic mode. By establishing a historical and theoretical foundation from which to understand and analyze this unique cultural moment, this thesis demonstrates how such a renegotiation acted in tandem with a larger reactionary project. This foundation includes a critical review of the “crisis of masculinity” of the 1990s defined in Sally Robinson’s (2000) work; an engagement with the nature, reproduction, and self-preservation of hegemony, as explored through traditional theorists like Raymond Williams (1977) along with its context in R.W. Connell’s (2005) revised theories of masculinity; and finally the melodramatic mode, performance, and excess through the works of Thomas Elsaesser (1972), Steven Neale (1986), and Linda Williams (2001).

Acting as both exemplar and cipher for this movement, rising star of the 1990s, Tom Hanks and his films, illustrate this cultural reading and demonstrate how his performance of apparently sensitive and managed masculinity ultimately reinscribes traditional paradigms of gender and power. Specifically, this thesis focuses on his performance of emotional excess and tears within a selection of works from the decade and argues that they act as a critical means of understanding the underlying preoccupations and motivations of the films, which may be clarified by interrogating for what and/or whom he is actually crying for. That is to say, this thesis demonstrates how patriarchal dominance is packaged in melodramatic tears. From this perspective, this thesis acts as a case study in how the reactionary movement within masculinity in the 1990s sought to undergird White masculine hegemony in the West during a time of perceived crisis by co-opting and appropriating non-hegemonic discourses.

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