Loomis, Erik

Advisor Department





Masculinity; Film; 1990's

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.


The 1990’s marked a period of stark transition in American culture from the fear of the Cold War era to a generally more hopeful look towards the future. This decade experienced a relative state of peace following the Gulf War, with a booming economy and technology reaching new heights. However, even with all of these positives, a recurring theme throughout history resurfaced: the crisis of masculinity. As a result, the film industry too underwent a transition. Mostly gone were the days of the 1980’s idealistic teen comedy or action stories and in came a return to 1970’s-esque hard-hitting narratives, focusing on the feelings of powerlessness that men felt towards major institutions such as the government, military, and mass media. In this paper, I analyze 1990’s thriller films and related academic literature to evaluate this new representation of masculinity on the big screen.

Along with these societal changes, came the subsequent newfound popularity of the thriller genre with fresh perspectives on masculinity. Male-dominated, often dark and brooding, lead roles pervaded these films, which frequently dealt with violent and aggressive themes of middle-class frustration, increased consumer paranoia, and distrust of authority. Through an exploration of these films, I examine the concepts of masculinity in 1990’s thrillers and suggest why these visions of masculinity became prevalent during this period.