Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology

Department

Kinesiology

First Advisor

Kyle Kusz

Abstract

Wes Anderson has been designated by many as one of the first ‘Indiewood’ directors. While his films possess a quirky, atypical, and oddball visual and aesthetic style, at least one of his films, The Royal Tenenbaums, offers performances of gender and race—particularly of white masculinity—that reinforce a number of gender and racial stereotypes (Beynon, 2002; Buchbinder, 2013; Connell, 1995; Kimmel, 1996; Moss, 2011). In this thesis, I conduct a critical textual analysis on The Royal Tenenbaums to illuminate the retrogressive gender and racial ideas that Anderson uses to constitute various performances or models of white masculinity. Most of my focus will be on Royal Tenenbaum, the patriarch of the family who seeks redemption from his wife and children only after hitting rock bottom economically and needing a place to live. Royal’s absence as a father and criticisms of his children have lingering effects that seem to cause each of them to be emotionally stuck child-like adults. By portraying upper class white masculinity in a ‘crisis’, Anderson ignores the social privilege his characters experience.

My analysis is grounded in a British Cultural Studies framework (Hall, 1989) and draws on the tools of Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 2002; Gill, 2000). In contemporary times, portraying white masculinity in crisis is mainly through media such as film. Using these concepts, I argue how Anderson falls in line with typical Hollywood directors as eliciting the same problematic forms of gendered performances. In this project, I highlight how Anderson reproduces white supremacist patriarchal ideas to be continued through generations, aligns the main male characters with ideas commonly associated with the ‘new man’ (Malin, 2005), ‘hard body’ (Jeffords, 1994), and ‘man-boy’ (Kusz, 2013, 2018), reduces the social world to the family (Wilkins, 2014) seemingly encouraging the audience to ignore the family’s privilege, represents femininity in a superficially progressive manner but truly represents stereotypical ideas associated with femininity in his female characters, and how he reductively uses females and people of color for development of his white male characters.

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