By Professor Claire Sisco King
Will Smith in I Am Legend. Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. Charlton Heston in precisely approximately everything.
Viewers of Hollywood motion motion pictures are not any doubt conversant in the sacrificial victim-hero, the male protagonist who nobly provides up his existence in order that others can be kept. Washed in Blood argues that such sacrificial movies are specially well-known in eras while the nation—and American manhood—is considered in difficulty. The sacrificial victim-hero, constantly imperiled and often displaying vintage signs of post-traumatic tension affliction, therefore bears the trauma of the nation.
Claire Sisco King bargains an in-depth learn of 3 favourite cycles of Hollywood motion pictures that stick to the sacrificial narrative: the early–to–mid Seventies, the mid–to–late Nineties, and the mid–to–late 2000s. From Vietnam-era catastrophe videos to post-9/11 apocalyptic thrillers, she examines how each one movie represents traumatized American masculinity and nationwide id. What she uncovers is a cinematic tendency to place instantly white males as America’s most dear citizens—and its noblest victims.
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Extra info for Washed in Blood: Male Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Cinema
Akin to the violent mise-en-scène of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), the Leng Tch’e photograph embodies constructions of trauma as wounding or shattering the subject. ”2 The victim’s severed limbs and his position in the middle of a crowd of onlookers evoke figurations of trauma as a disarticulating 19 20 Wa s h e d i n B l o o d experience that wrenches the subject from the social. In addition to the content of the photograph, its formal qualities might also be understood as emblematic of trauma.
Sacrificial films thus position themselves as therapeutic responses to trauma. If trauma is understood to imprison the survivor pathologically in the continual present of a painful past, narrative is typically understood as one of the most critical steps with which the survivor can move on from his/her ordeal. 107 Learning to tell his/her story, the posttraumatic subject can rearticulate his/her sense of self, history, and agency in an attempt to escape trauma’s persistent return. ”108 Recalling the therapeutic use of testimony, sacrificial films enact a fictive moving on or leaving behind in which trauma can be imagined as safely contained in the past—no longer intruding on and interrupting the present.
Such emphasis risks conflating the concepts of “trauma” and “disaster,” obscuring the extent to which suffering is often felt commonly and quietly in the everyday and asserting that certain events (and therefore certain victims) matter more (read: are more traumatic/traumatized) than others. These narratives, thus, privilege certain kinds of suffering as more remarkable or extraordinary than others, echoing Brown’s point that public determination of what gets called “trauma” is often guided by ideology.