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Examine How At Least Two Contemporary Plays And/Or Performances ‘Address Masculinity And Its Discontents’ (Edgar In Deeney, 2006: 406).

2449 words - 10 pages

David Edgar, in his book State of Play: Playwrights on Playwriting (1999) highlights the fact that in the mid 90’s there seemed to be an “over-arching theme” (edgar, 1999, p27) in contemporary British play that looked at ideas of masculinity. “Gay plays like Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing… lad’s plays like Jez Butterworths Mojo… [and] girls-in-a-boys’ gang plays like Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting… address masculinity and its discontents’ (ibid, p.27). In this essay I will look at what ideas of masculinity are, and how these discontents have been addressed in contemporary theatre (and the idea of the “decline of the dominant role of men”(edgar, 1999, p.28)) and how the crisis of masculinity(ref) has been staged. I will do this by looking at performances from Ron Athey, Franko B, and Gregory Burkes’ Black Watch. Firstly however, I will look at a definition of what masculinity is, in order to discuss what representations of this idea are being performed in the selected pieces of work.
Perhaps one of the main reasons as to why there is thought to be a ‘crisis’ of masculinity, is because the term itself is so hard to define, in a sociological sense. Jack Kahn in his book ‘An Introduction to Masculinities’ states that “masculinity is a hypothetical construct because, in and of itself, it cannot be directly observed and measured” (2009, p.3). This is because “masculinities and male behavious are not the simple product of genetic codings or biological predispositions” (Whitehead and Barrett, 2001, p.16), it is instead a conceptual idea that is used to explain a collection of behaviors, attitudes, thoughts and emotions that make up a specific identity. masculinity is not just one idea, nor is it specifically a male thing, it is an interpretation of an identity that can be experienced by women too, with both experiencing ‘normative’ masculinity to varying degrees. these ideas appear to differ from culture to cluture, and from generation to generation. For example, it is not uncoomon in countries in the middle east or even mainland europe for men to hold hands or to kis one another as sign of greeting or respect, an activity that would be viewed as non-masculine by many men in the uk and america. Each cultrure it would seem then has its own definitioin as to what masculinity is.
This difference in oppinions give credence to the idea that gender (more specifically the binary of male and female) is not the the most fundimental aspect of masculinity. Rather it is a specific interpretation of masculinity that makes the male gender masculine; “it is difficult to say that the male body can be objectivley defines and that it exists without cultural influence. The male body has a particualry close connection to cluture and discorse and is one of the main avenues throughout which culture attempts to construct masculinity” (Reeser, 2010, p.91). in terms of generation to generation, the ideals of masculity have change greatly over the last thirty years, from a...

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