"Daniel O'Brien's work here is both foundational and invaluable. Perhaps his most profound statement about these films is his most simple: that the strongman figure, embodied in Hercules, is part of our masculine mythopoesis as surely as the intellectual problem-solver, the suave secret agent, and the mysterious foreign count. This figure thus represents our desire to supersede the bonds of our own masculinity, reflecting not the dominant arm of the patriarchy, but that which surpasses it - the mythical, mystical link between human and deity, bound up in bodies too large to readily codify. This is a text that any scholar, critic, or fan of sword-and-sandal films will want readily available for repeat consultation." - Michael G. Cornelius, Wilson College, USA
The cinema has often showcased the muscular male body, most notably in genres invoking classical Greco-Roman culture, whether peplum, epic or sword-and-sorcery. This book reassesses the classically-inflected action film as a significant cinematic form, often marginalized in media studies, that transcends such reductive labels as camp or kitsch. The focus is on the depiction of heroic masculinity, often characterized as reactionary or fascist, yet far more varied and contradictory, especially in relation to femininity and non-whiteness. These diverse representations of masculinity offer a major contribution to debates on maleness within and beyond academia that has been largely unexplored. In particular, Hercules in his many incarnations is one of the most important mythopoetic figures, on a par with King Arthur, Robin Hood, Tarzan and James Bond, informing popular cultural interpretations of manliness and the exaggerated male form.
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