Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Kelli Fuery

Second Advisor

Dr. Ian Barnard

Third Advisor

Morgan Read-Davidson


This thesis argues that to critique hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy in good faith, film and television must focus on the futures created through men’s ethical action in the present, rather than inert displays of men’s horrific behaviors that rely on audience shame as a tool for reclaiming men’s pride. Men’s freedom to change their situation is introduced through Manon Garcia’s (2022) notion of masculinity as an “impasse,” preventing men from authentic connection with others. This concept is furthered using David Buchbinder (2013), with the television examples Mad Men (Weiner 2007-2015) and Black Mirror (Brooker 2011-2023) each presenting a different masculine reaction to the notion of men’s responsibility.

Following this foundation of men’s situation as constructed and therefore open to change, this thesis presents contemporary films which appear to critique men’s socially significant status, but instead obscure their responsibility to change through a performance of shame. Referencing Sara Ahmed’s (2014) study of national performances of shame alongside Jacques Rancière’s (2021) notion of the intolerable image, men’s shame over their past actions is critiqued as disguising men’s responsibility, and drawing attention away from women’s experiences of oppression by men. Men (Garland 2022) and The Power of the Dog (Campion 2021) serve as examples, representing an extreme display of masculine shame in the former, and a stronger yet incomplete critique of men’s harmful behaviors in the latter. Finally, this thesis continues with Rancière, as well as Simone de Beauvoir’s (2015) notion of ambiguity, to examine contemporary films which inspire curiosity in the spectator over how men might act ethically. This curiosity is a refusal of the inward turn of shame, and is vi crucial to the analysis of Aftersun (Wells 2022) and The Green Knight (Lowery 2021), films which explore men’s ambiguous situation and freedom to act in the present, without indulging in shame as a means of reclaiming men’s pride

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