This dissertation will focus on the representation of ideal, white masculinity in the films of the Cold War period and how those representations, as they appeared in the form of art, served either to flatter or criticize the times in which they were made. By the term representation, I use, in particular, Stuart Hallís ideas on representation and the media. Hall contends that meaning is controlled by those who control the means of creation (in this case the Hollywood studios). And since the Cold War influenced society in such a powerful way, Hallís ideas on how culture determines the interpretation of representation is most important. These representations, therefore, served political purposes, as they captured political messages or represented the political views of the producers and directors.
Of particular focus will be the western genre and the spy film genre. Notable film persona and characters include, of course, John Wayne, the representation of the ideal American, and James Bond, the representation of the ideal Englishman. However, the glorification of the military and an emphasis on traditional, patriotic themes in various war films must also be addressed. Furthermore, nearly every major event during the Cold War period was either directly or indirectly tied to Cold War tensions and was represented in the periodís films. This dissertationís focus on the representation of ideal masculinity in the periodís films, then, will evolve along with the socio-historic events and, most especially, with the changing mindsets and values. For example, the Civil Rights Movement impacted the representation of black masculinity, a representation whose very existence challenged society much the same way the Civil Rights Movement itself did. Also, events such as the Vietnam War or the Watergate Scandal led to the advent of the cinematic anti-hero as well as representations of masculinity that also challenged the previous norm. These events, therefore, led to films that not only interrogated and challenged the ideal representation of the white, heterosexual male, but also harshly criticized Cold War policies. Finally, it is apparent that the United States government had a long-standing partnership with Hollywood film producers to export American culture through film, thus creating markets for American-made goods. Through this partnership, the proxy cinematic ambassador for the United States became the representation of white masculinity.