All Hail the Chief!: Adolescent Masculinity in Reaganite Teen Films

My paper, “All Hail the Chief!: Adolescent Masculinity in Reaganite Teen Films,” has been accepted to the 2013 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference in Washington D.C.

Here is my paper/presentation synopsis:

Susan Jeffords’ 1993 book, Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era, highlighted the 1980s phenomena of “Hard Body” male action figures who were defined by exaggerated muscular builds. Films like Die Hard, The Terminator, and characters like Rocky Balboa and Rambo inundated popular culture with their hyper masculine images. Many of these films featured antagonists who were communists or veiled as being by-products of countries that embraced Marxist ideals. The images and ideologies from the “hard body” films were firmly connected to the outlook and appearance of then-president, Ronald Reagan, and acted as pop culture propaganda for the masses.

While much has been written about the cultural impact of the adult-centered “hard body” films, little has been written about a subset of teen films that similarly embodied anticommunist stances and featured aspiring muscle-bound male youths. In this paper I examine films like the original Red Dawn (1984), The Rescue (1988), Russkies (1987), Little Nikita (1988), Born American (1986), Real Genius (1985), and WarGames (1983). I will be expanding Jefford’s thesis by looking at the messages aimed at adolescent audiences during Reagan’s 1980s and how they differed from their adult peers. Finally, I will take a look at the contemporary legacy of these films and analyze the 2012 remake of Red Dawn to see if the messages and motifs have changed or if the remake still embraces simplistic patriotic ideals, faultless masculinity, and politically conservative ideals.

Hope to see some old faces at the conference and meet some new academics!