The rebirth of slick Clinton, Travolta, and recuperations of hard-body nationhood in the 1990s /

by Titman, Nathan.

Abstract (Summary)
Simon Morgan-Russell, Advisor This thesis analyzes the characters and performances of John Travolta throughout the 1990s and examines how the actor's celebrity persona comments on the shifting meanings of masculinity that emerged in a post-Reagan cultural landscape. A critical analysis of President Clinton's multiple identities?in terms of gender, class, and race?demonstrates that his popularity in the 1990s resulted from his ability to continue Reagan's " hard-body " masculine national identity while seemingly responding to its more radical aspects. The paper examines how Travolta's own complex identity contributes to the emergent " sensitive patriarch " model for American masculinity that allows contradictory attitudes and identities to coexist. Starting with his iconic turn in 1977's Saturday Night Fever, a diachronic analysis of Travolta's film career shows that his ability to convey femininity, blackness, and working-class experience alongside more normative signifiers of white middle-class masculinity explains why he failed to satisfy the " hard-body " aesthetic of the 1980s, yet reemerged as a valued Hollywood commodity after neoconservative social concerns began emphasizing family values and white male responsibility in the 1990s. A study of the roles that Travolta played in the 1990s demonstrates that he, like Clinton, represented the white male body's potential to act as the benevolent patriarchal figure in a culture increasingly cognizant of its diversity, while justifying the continued cultural dominance of white middle-class males. While Travolta's film persona has remained relatively stable over time, as demonstrated by recurring mannerisms and frequent appearances in dancing scenes, his image in the 1990s appears to prescribe normative roles for men, whether he is iii playing oppressed fathers, outrageously depraved villains, or slick criminals. Memories of Travolta's star image in the 1970s and his benevolent public appearances, such as those on The Oprah Winfrey Show, help reinforce the perception that values and identities of celebrities are " real, " even if they are inherently contradictory. This thesis calls for more critical evaluations of celebrity personae, arguing that Travolta's film performances demonstrate how " hard-body " conservatism (either in politics or mediated images) adapts and endures over time, even when certain public figures appear to challenge traditional masculinity and long-established cultural hegemony. iv
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:travolta john clinton bill masculinity in motion pictures civilization united states


Date of Publication:

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.