Action Movies Essay Research Paper Simply by — страница 6

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isn't essential to how the space they traverse is articulated.This is a space-oriented action film in which the anxiety about being a man and living up to the Reagan image of masculinity is a narrative obsession. The homoeroticism that is often barely submerged in traditional Westerns, combat films, and other masculinist genres prior to 1980 comes utterly to the surface in Top Gun. Early in the film, Cruise, in an effort to win over Kelly McGillis, follows her into the ladies room. On the one hand, this is the kind of heteropredatory behavior sanctioned by Reagan-era masculine paradigms. Cruise, the film suggests, is so manly that he can go into a ladies room without being mistaken for a gay man. But the looks he gets from the women in the rest room, and the men as he enters and

exits, suggest otherwise.The film continues to vacillate between a comfort in its homosociality (whose very purpose is to exclude the homosexual) and a deep homophobia which, apropos to a return of the repressed, is expressed in a homoerotic discourse of which the film is only partially aware. As his flight partner Goose (Anthony Edwards) watches Maverick preparing for a date with McGillis, he says, "Honey, you look great." The film finds this funny; fighter pilot teams are as intimate as married couples, and for the safety of the nation they have to be. But when comedy turns to tragedy, the social turns erotic. Says Maverick in a tone something more than grief-stricken as he mourns Goose's death, "God, I want him back."As action films nearly always do, Top

Gun revels in the magnificence of the male body as it shows the pilots cavorting during a game of beach volleyball. To acknowledge the body-eroticism of Cruise, Val Kilmer, and the other young male stars, there needs to be this spectacle, this equivalent of a musical number to arrest the narrative. Fighter pilots don't fly naked, after all. But perhaps the most delicious moment of both pan-sexual body delectation and homoerotic splendor is when Cruise, leaning over the locker room sink in his tighty-whities, is himself cruised by the father-figure of his Commanding Officer (Tom Skerrit). After telling Maverick that he has to get on with life after Goose's death, he leaves the locker room. His parting gesture is not the expected manly pat on the back, or even a slightly more

intimate hug. Rather, it is the languorous gesture of running his fingers slowly across Cruise's back. One wonders why Maverick continues to have Oedipal anxieties after that, for it is clear that the father does indeed love his son.As with Die Hard, there is a crisis of masculinity (though here with the central figure of Cruise) which manifests itself in the loss of the ability to draw and fire. As in the Western and combat films, this ability is regained by the external threat; in Top Gun, the Communist threat is generic, untied to any particular nation. At best, the construction of this Cold War enemy is something between an Arab abstraction and a Soviet. This parallels the generic threat of Indians in Westerns, which, even when identified by tribe, were seldom ever depicted

with any real cultural specificity. Again, though this is obviously more readily connected to the War film, the fact is that Top Gun takes place largely in domestic space, which to say American space, and takes place there in a certain way. So it is just as intimately linked with the frontier as it is with borders of conflict abroad, though certainly not more so.The film's only partially spoken historical referents are easier to locate. Like the Rambo series and Westerns of the '70s, the specter of Vietnam haunts the film, from the details of Maverick's father's disappearance right down to the film's desire to return to the Manichean ethics of WWII, a desire Reagan made altogether possible to articulate, and even, far too often, to achieve. Early in the film, McGillis' civilian

flight instructor is seen entering the fighter pilot class she teaches only from the back and only with a view of her legs, which are covered in retro-1940s seamed stockings. But unlike the earnest counter-Westerns of the '70s, the Vietnam in Top Gun was as much a theme park as a historical referent. In his discussion of the re-historicization and re-narrativization of Vietnam, Jim Hoberman mentions that Top Gun producer "Don Simpson actually bragged to one interviewer that he wrecked his motorcycle to beat the draft."The more recent paradigms of action film masculinity are as symptomatic of the Clinton years as the Hard Bodies were of the Reagan Era, as heralded by the evolution of the Terminator from one film to the next. In The Terminator (1984), Arnold