University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik, Košice, Slovakia
HollywoodPerpetuation of American Mythology:
The American Dream and American Adam Synthesis
Abstract: Hollywood continually recycles the American myth to restore what Gilmore calls a “symbolic script […], a cultural construct, endlessly variable, and not always necessary” – the image of manliness. It does so by utilizing the main male protagonist’s performance of the dream pursuit as a means of performing their manliness that directly reflects the predominant models of American manhood. And becauseHollywood considerably invests in the representation of male protagonists and their experiences within American socio-cultural contexts, these representations are often interwoven with other idealized constructions that place the protagonists within American contexts, and thus create collective American experiences that effectively address American men. In this context, the pursuit of the American dream, in which the American man is often engaged, presents a potent correlation effectively exploited byHollywood cinema.
Keywords: American Dream; Hollywood; Ideology; Masculinity; Hero.
Film is not just text. It is also cultural practice, and should be approached and studied as such. It is made under specific cultural circumstances, and yet is also influences the circumstances of culture.
Whenever we cast our eyes up to the silver screen, wherever we look-at figures riding tall in the saddle crouched in foxholes, careening down mountain roads in fast cars, or even cowering in the kitchen – we see men. One urgentand consistent theme that stretches through Hollywoodfilms has been masculinity.
Cultural constructs and identities have been in the focus of cultural and film studies research for more than half a century now. Whether it is film, TV, theater, or other medium that helps to mediate and transmit their representations, cultural constructs as well as identities became a target corpus of the growing need to investigate patterns of their formulations – patterns that reveal how the representation of these mold spectators’ perception and influence their relation to everyday realities. This need is strengthened by a growing urge for gender-sensitive research, which attracts particular attention of researchers examining the specific articulation of representation in relation to dominant ideologies. In alliance with this need, the investigation of ideology in recent cultural analysis diverts from previous approaches that relied on theoretical paradigms, to stress the importance of connecting the research “more directly to action and meaning [of constructs] and to examine how people use and present ideologies as they pursue their everyday interests”.
This short study attempts to respond to this general plea by bringing forward a Hollywooddesign, one that ingrains the myth of the American dream into specific formulations of male protagonists in order to achieve the best commercial effect – a process which in its own turn prompts alternatives of dominant male identities to the audiences. This association of preferred identities with American collective experiences such as the American dream furthers representative forms of American masculinities that intensify the model of conformity imposed by dominant ideologies – a process which is in Foucauldian terminology called as “the pursuit of conformity”. And because the “consistent theme that stretches through Hollywood films…has been masculinity”  the study approaches the complex issue of ideology by concentrating on the representation of masculinity in two specific popular films with the attempt to emphasize Hollywood practices which, along with the pursuit of commercial success, further favor representations of male identities and thus reinforce conformity.
Researching patterns of individual constructions and their implications for understanding relations between hegemonic ideology and constructed gender images in Hollywood production is thus in the center of this study which relies on the argument thatHollywood’s strategy to acquire commercial successis to operate within the field of its tendencies and conventions designed to respond to specific historical situations. Hollywood’s far-reaching success has been secured by complex processes amongst which the most efficient is what Thomas Elsaesser explains as recycling of formulas, which is a method that secures perpetual repetition of altered subjects, experiences, or desires, and works as an important factor for the continuity of the medium. It is a process that has made Hollywood “the most adaptive and the most conservative, the most revolutionary and the most reactionary force in global culture”. And the same process allows Hollywood to exploit reciprocally efficient correlations of individual cultural constructs to further reinforce ideologically suitableforms of gender representation, hence in this case, the correlation oftwo specific cultural constructs- the American dream and American man- which are both very context-dependent constructions enjoying continual re-birth in American cinema.
The American dream is one of the key concepts that have for centuries embodied central elements of American character. Philosophically, the concept of the American dream aligns with Pragmatism; on the social level it aligns with the development of society from Puritan to egalitarian Darwinist and post-9/11 society; from the psychological point of view, the dream embodies life-driving essence; but most of all, on the national level, it has for centuries represented the privilege of the God chosen nation to the rest of the world. Bound to the origins of the Protestant doctrine of embetterment, it has developed into a mass-consumed product that can be exercised only by successful individuals despite the concept’s specifically collective character representing communal desire.
The dream has developed as a part of the American myth – a collective self-portrait that justifies the nation’s exceptionality on the account of the belief in equality and liberty. Deeply rooted in the motivation of the Founding Fathers and articulated in the founding texts of the nation, a specifically American myth of foundation achieved more pronounced contours and a more practical shape recast in the form of the more effective American dream that foretold its ideological utility for the forthcoming centuries. And as an integral part of the myth, the dream was outlined in its historical development within the work of literature by R.W.B. Lewis, who in his work The American Adam (1955) outlines the myth, or myths, that dominated the imagination of writers of the years 1820-1860. He points out the myth’s central meaning and its incorporation in the works of great thinkers and writers of the 19th century. The opinion that Lewis presents throughout his study is that the American myth produced the figure of the authentic American man who is the embodiment of American virtues and innocence. The American dream is within the mythological context explained by Lewis as a perception of life determined by its indestructible vitality for onward movement. Lewis ascribes this vision of life to the American man whom he calls American Adam and defines him as “an authentic […] American figure of heroic innocence and vast potentialities, poised at the start of a new history”. The American Adam thus became a specific male representative of American vigor and vitality, and even when he changed his characteristics over the course of time, the pursuer of the American dream remains to be a representative of the ordinary American man, and a figure adopted by many writers consciously contributing to the vision of American character. Walt Whitman made innocence the essential attribute of the character and described his vision of the Adam as a “liberated, innocent, solitary, forward-thrusting personality”. Frederick Carpenter in his exploration of the Adam draws on the previous delineations of the American man who surpasses “the American farmer” and “American frontiersman”, and as “the American Adam” enters the 20th century to overcome “the disillusion of today”. And as such a figure seeking to overcome the troubles of today the Adam still remains an important figure in contemporary representation of the American dreamin narrative arts.
The Adam, as Lewis pointed out, re-appears in cycles with the need for periodic and radical change in American society and adapts his character according to the social and cultural pleas. In the late 20th century, these pleas had become more centered on the representation of masculine features that would correspond with changing social paradigms and would reflect the demand of men to re-define their location in society and suggest alternatives of the authentic Adam timelessly sought to realize his idealEden in the world. As the aim of this study is to demonstrate the synthesis of the representation of the American man and the dream pursuit to emphasize the role of American ideology in contemporary Hollywood filmnarrative, thisAmerican man and his contemporary demonstration of Adamic vitality for onward movement emphasizes the traditional interpretation of the American myth and its identification of this authentic American man who legitimates the right to pursue the American dream.
The American man has been celebrated as the figure of liberation, innocence, and as the representative of American vigor his dominant position was supported by patriarchal ideology. This began to be tackled by women’s liberation resistance that started altering the representation of the authentic man. The changing character of the American man became evident especially in the 20th century, when his representation began to be celebrated visually via cinematic portrayal, hence made more visible and brought closer to his audiences. The visualization provides greater opportunities for the portrayal of his accommodation to changing society, but also for the ideological enforcement of specific projections preferred by dominant ideologies, which address wide audiences and influence their perception of gender roles in society. The greatest producer of such projections -Hollywood, has been precisely for this ideological working heavily criticized by cultural research that focuses on the implications of gendered representations. Most importantly, it is Hollywood’s design of representations that has the ability to shore up, reinforce, or shape culture’s perceptions that also shape the perceptions of what it means to be the American man.
For over a century Hollywood film has thus presented the American man in all his varieties and locations, depicting him either in the role of the father at home to consolidate traditional American values in the postwar society (Father of the Bride, Minnelli, 1950; It’s a Wonderful Life, Capra, 1946), or as the man of action films of the 1980s (First Blood , Kotcheff, 1982; Rambo II, Cosmatos, 1985), reactionary who responds to the feminist progressive movements initiated by the second wave feminism in the 1970s. In the 1990s, a new form of the American man appeared on screen – the disempowered middle-class white male who suffers from alienation and disengagement (American Beauty, Mendes, 1999; Fight Club, Fincher, 2000), and who attempts to re-define masculinity and thus stave off the alleged crisis of men. All these representations attempt to portray an ordinary American man in a dauntless position by making him overcome threats, enemies, or intimidators to his domination, and accredit him with proposed models of male identity that demonstrate mass culture’s assumptions about a “fixed, true masculinity [that resides] beneath the ebb and flow of daily life”.
Hence the quest for ‘true masculinity’ has become a continuing process in Hollywood, investing heavily to reinforce its mode of representation and thus sustains a dominant position in the market. In respect to this, Hollywoodproposes representations that echo the feelings of men, which are especially towards the end of the 20th century more associated with disengagement, alienation and the lack of vigor for life. The crisis of masculinity that emerged in the postwar era reemerged during the 1990s and as Susan Faludi suggests, it is closely associated with therepresentation of men in the media. As she describes, “by century’s end, the dictates of a consumer and media culture had trapped both men and women in a world in which top billing mattered more than building, in which representation trumped production, in which appearances were what counted”. But since women’s femininity is more harmonious with the aesthetics, Faludi explains, their sexuality less endangered, it is men, whose sexuality is more threatened by the new ethic of appearances, therefore men are affected more by new trends in masculine representations that divert from the traditional masculine attributes. In this culture of representations, “wherever the American man turned in the nineties, he seemed to be facing a display case”, and this may have generated the loss of their stable location in society defined by traditionally clear frames of representation. In response to these general tendencies to usher alternatives to traditional representations, Hollywood demonstrates its interestto display the authentic American man, who, despite some menacing or discouraging attempts reaches happiness and confirms his stable location in society. And thus, this cinematic representation attempts to bring the American man back to his pedestal. In this process, the American dream functions as an important agent, which not only makes his attainment of happiness possible, but, more importantly, it allows his transformation into a successful and powerful cinematic representation through a set of performative acts that help him assert and demonstrate his specific male identity, and communicate this transformation to the audiences.
This will be briefly pointed out in the example of two Hollywood films – It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, 1943) and American Beauty (Mendes, 1999), which are films with considerably different time of release, each representing a different cinematic era that is defined by different cinematic patterns generated by different patterns of cinema perception, appealing to a different American man. However, the two films not only share a similar plot structure that determines the development of the main male character as the American man, but also the same pattern of constructing the image of the American man most appealing to their audiences. The comparative analysis of the two films therefore bestillustrates Hollywood’s efficient recycling tendencies and the strategy to useuniversal, yet culturally determined (in American cultural contexts) narrative of the American dream.Each of the films features a different, more representative American man (representative of their era), but both of them present the universal pattern of the pursuit of the American dream which becomesthe American man’s legitimate right and eventually an arena for performative demonstrations of Adamic vitality.
The emphasis on the performance of the American dream underscores its dependency on the male protagonist, as well as it helps to describe a potential shift in typology of the dream that is associated with the changing cinematic representation of men – from the traditional patriarchal type preferred by classic Hollywood, to the 1990s “improved version […] cleared of some endearing attributes of the traditional form of masculinity”. Performance of the American dream is in the context of American cultural practices a significant aspect upholding the emphasis on the process of Hollywood’s negotiation resulting in commercially successful films that affect audiences with represented reality as “ideal version[s] of their way of life”. Performance is, thus, in this context, treated as a practice tied to the American pragmatic tradition of rhetoric and communication with the ability to alter the spectator’s thinking about general and specific social situations. And perceived as “an arena for the constant process of negotiating experiences and meanings that constitute culture”, the performance of the American dream provides an arena for gender performativity of the authentic American hero.
One such an arena is presented in an all-time Hollywoodclassic film about the pursuit of the American dream It’s a Wonderful Life. The film belongs to the most productive Hollywood period – the Studio Era (1930-1945) despite the fact it was finished and released in 1946, which is designated as a period during which American cinema “perfected its language and reached the height of its power“. It was also an era in which men’s position in society was still significantly traditional and responsive to the cultural constructions of the old man – the classical depiction of man, who, asserting his masculine omnipotence, follows the rules of a binary form of representation. And as Susan Faludi observes, this era also generated a form of culture that encouraged men to play “functional public roles” and followed a model of masculinity “that show[ed] men how to be part of a larger social system”. It was a culture that still nourished the male role of protector and provider, as the remnants of traditionally patriarchal organization of society that were already in the war time severely challenged by mobilization of women due to changing socio-economic conditions of men which stimulated their social and economic dislocation. As Faludi explains, this culture provided a context for the kind of manhood that required a society or community in order to prove itself and demonstrate its “traditional domains in which men pursued authority and power – politics, religion, the military, the community, and the household”, which were more societal institutions rather than private ones.
And Hollywoodpersonified this kind of manhood in what Robert Ray identifies as the ‘official hero’- an embodiment of American belief in collective action, usually presented as a teacher, lawyer, politician, farmer, and very commonly a family man. From a lawyer and leading citizen of a booming town during the settlement period in Oklahoma depicted in Cimarron (1930), to a famous producer in The Great Ziegfeld (1936), a child advocate attempting to become a father-like figure to young boys in Boys Town (1938), and a Father who connects with young boys to help them find the right direction in life inGoing My Way (1944), to George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), who despite his interest in worldly explorations and adventures becomes a respected persona and responsible community figure in Bedford Falls, the town he lives in and never leaves. The official hero is, unlike his counterpart – the ‘reluctant hero’ – more dependent on the outside intervention and favorable narrative contexts.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a sentimental story that attempts to restore faith in the dream pursuit and thus soothe the tensions of postwar American life. It does so by radiating feelings of satisfaction which arise from the reconciliation of the internal conflicts of the hero, whose experiences and eventual success relieves everyday pressures. Released in the postwar era, the film attempts to emphasize the role of traditional values in everyday life in response to general attitudes associated with disillusionment and despair by providing a hero – George Bailey (James Stewart) – who overcomes his inner struggle and makes the ordinary his ultimate happiness. George recognizes his male identity in a world affected by a postwar reconfiguration of traditional gendered positions, especially related to economy patterns, and considers immediate problems that emerged upon the return of American men from WWII, who, seeking to go back to normal life, tried to return to it through the ideal pursuit of the American dream “as they had idealized it while risking their lives in its defense”. Thus, George is a representative of the ordinary American man who struggles to find his way to happiness and achieves it with the help of community in order to demonstrate the eventuality of living the American dream to the American men of the postwar era.
A similar experience with the desire for explorations (in this case personal rather than worldly) has Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), the protagonist of American Beauty. This film presents a similar story to that of George Bailey’s – a story of a man’s struggle for survival in a community in which he no longer finds his place. The hero experiences a mid-life crisis and confronts audiences with his inner struggle and attempts to recover his lost position by self-constitution of his identity that, he believes, will help him restore his potency and life vigor. The story focuses on Lester and his conflict that mirrors the conflict of many American men of the late 20th century, and through his journey of transformation the narrative proposes a solution to American men in crisis.
Lester is, like George, a contrastive character, who, with his moral ambiguity, aligns with wider general demands of the cinema in the late 1990s when film audiences prefer irony and sarcasm of cultural relativism before pointless and simplistically grim films. The main concern of films embraced by the common heading of smart cinema primarily focus on the ordinariness of suburban family life. In this respect American Beauty follows the line of production that concentrates on the interrogation of suburbia façades by highlighting tensions of white middle-class family (e.g. Ordinary People, Redford, 1980; The Ice Storm, Lee, 1997; Happiness, Solondz, 1998). The central focus of these films, including American Beauty, is the concern with disrupted values of a middle-class suburban family presented through miscommunication of values and emotional dysfunction of the main protagonists. As a means of critique these films re-embrace classical narrative strategies, hence American Beauty employs a traditional narrative pattern based on character-centered causality, and focusing on Lester Burnham’s character narrates the journey of the ordinary American man “back to being a real man in all his essentialist glory”. This journey reveals Lester’s tensions that paraphrase the American man’s tensions arising from the crisis of masculinity, but also reveals the tendency ofHollywood to engrain the myth of the American dream into this specific formulation of the male protagonist who became more appealing for the 1990s audiences.
The film was publicly promoted as a dark, quirky comedy, and immediately after its release denounced by political conservatives as an attack on traditional family values. But despite having been rejected as a subversive picture that presents atrocious parental role models, homosexuality, drug abuse and sex, the film won five Oscars and became an international blockbuster success, which is primarily attributed to a more general social mood characterized by irony and sarcasm. It also responds to a wider social and political debate about moral relativism associated with Generation X and their “ironic disengagement as a means of non-participatory co-existence with boomers and their domination of the cultural and political landscape”. This ironic disengagement integrated into the cinema in the form of a specific mode and created a specific cinematic form of representation heavily relying on irony, black humor, fatalism and moral relativism that became characteristic features ofAmerican Beauty. The mode of these films created space for an active battleground in a larger debate about relativism in popular culture, significant especially in the 1990s.
In It’s a Wonderful Life the pursuit of the American dream is enacted by George Bailey through a set of performative activities that the hero performs subconsciously, or involuntarily, as he goes through three stages of character development, and which, through the assertion of his character, define his ultimate position associated with moral authority and power. George’s development in the story classically follows the Oedipal trajectory, which, by acting upon a female character – his wife Mary – directly associateshim with potency, control, and activity as opposed to women’s associations with passivity, emotions and incompetence. After George commits to family, and thus for life in Bedford Falls,the narrative constantly ruins all his attempts to escape the everydayness and makes him, via his ethical character, do everything to restore security and peace in the town. These acts of rescue are repeatedly performed and accentuated throughout the story, and eventually drown out George’s inner struggle, only to acknowledge hisultimate potency and control determined by his family and the community he lives in.
And it is these acts of rescue that provide the arena for performative self-assertive acts of George, very much similar to the arena provided for Lester, who, in the pursuit of his happiness, performs his assertive acts while trying to identify the main oppressors of his manliness that deprived him of the authority he believes heonce used to have, and thus confronts his environment with such acts that help him regain his position. Lester’s journey, like George’s, embraces basic dichotomies and offers a resolution in the form of restored status quo, which reinforces traditional American values in a troublesome period in history. In both of the films, juxtaposing individualism with community, the narrative focuses on the emphasis of the ordinary associated with community and family which George and Lester so vehemently try to escape. Lester’s escape is, however, more in time with his era, demonstrated by re-defining his male identity in order to fight the ‘enemies’ in the form of feminine assertion and alternative models of masculinity that surround him. After defeating both the aspects that generate his crisis – corporate culture that confines him to the office job and feminine intrusion in masculine world – the narrative returns Lester to acknowledge that the feminine is a part of the ordinary in his life, and which ultimately contributes to his happiness. The central concern of Lester’s journey to happiness is thus defined by comparison points he is fighting on his journey – feminine self-assertion and homosexual intimidation – and his own idleness, caused by dispassion for life, and disengagement with the ordinary. With the slogan “there is nothing worse in life than being ordinary” he strives to change and find his lost happiness. After being sexually activated, Lester literally performs his return to what he believes to be a true male identity and thus pursues his supposed happiness to regain his forgotten manly ego and demonstrates it in a set of declarative acts. However, the recognition of his potency to transform is only one stage of the overall pursuit, and eventually leads him to the ultimate recognition of his true happiness. Similarly to George Bailey, Lester goes through three stages of character development: first stage defined by idleness and disengagement, after which comes the second stage of active pursuit of his happiness defined as the pursuit of manliness which escalates into the final recognition of happiness –the American dream defined by family and community.
George’s inner struggle, on the other hand, follows the classical pattern that often requires an outside (narrative) intervention, which is demonstrated by the miracle he experiences, a miracle in the form of God’sinterference that makes him ultimately acknowledge the happiness of the ordinary and affirm real American values. This narrative intrusion is crucial both for George and for the perception of the American dream by the audience in the film. As the protagonist reaches the recognition of his happiness and associates it with his ordinary life, his family, business, house, and most importantly with the community, he makes the American dream possible and contained within the real. The miracle of the ordinary, on the other hand, creates an illusion of adventure, heroism, and success performed by the model American man. Hence it demonstrates that a domestic, responsible, and ordinary life can, despite its ordinariness, fulfill one’s expectations of what living the American dream involves, and puts in contrastradical individualism that is presented as self-destructive for post-war American men.
And so the shift from individualism to the concern for community is determined by George’s declaration of moral authority and control he gains in Bedford Falls, which happens to be the most potent feature in both the films.While George’s pursuit takes the form of his assertive self-demonstration of moral character thatgains him respect in the community and along with dynamic and gregarious characterthey keep him in the center of the social life, Lester performs his supposed journey to happiness by conscious assertion of dominance that generates a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of victory, by performing activities that are traditionally associated with the declaration of masculinity – taking possession of a woman. Lester strives for the change by persistent physical activities, as when he takes up jogging only “to look good naked” (46:31). His involvement in activities that shape his body (body-building in the garage) is a direct reference to the vehement attempt to deny the nurturer in him. The nurturer, a new model of masculinity that appeared as a reaction to the second wave of feminism and which “sensing justice in the feminist movement […], attempted to foster a more caring, sharing, nurturing man”. Lester’s focus on physical attractiveness relates more to the visual representation of men that relied on their muscularity and self-confidence, and reveals his attempt to overcome the nurturer, who, with his supposedly weak nature, contributes to Lester’s crisis. The attempt to re-arrange the codes of masculinity to return to one that associates with physical strength also indicates the symptomatic implications of the corporate, managerial oppression of ‘true masculinity’ he escapes by giving up the office job.
The most crucial element of both the narratives is the emphasis on moral authority fundamental for the portrayal of the American man, who, despite all his external and inner struggles, manages to re-assert his position in American society. Classically, this is more straightforward in It’s a Wonderful Life, where the narrative places greater emphasis on George’s virtues and moral authority to be maintained in troublesome situations, which is, again classically,supportedby the contrastive representation of George’s wife, Mary, who, by taking up associations with nurture and emotions, allows George’s associations with finances and respect. The narrative in American Beauty, does not allow such straightforward association of Lester and authority. The narrative lets Lester experience the failure of the 1990s American man in order to make him experience rebirth that fundamentally changes his character into a morally stronger figure that demonstrates his moral authority and secures his re-gained position in society. The element of (re)assertion of authority enables both George and Lester’s identification with moral probity and persistence – in George’s case the persistence not to succumb to speculative practices of Potter’s (the villain) to protect the community of Bedford Falls during which hedeclares his strong masculine domination. In Lester’s case it is the persistence to demonstrate his masculinity that leads him to the recognition of his true happiness, and indicates the victory of the contemporary American family man over the traditional patriarchal authority, while at the same time it also indicates the shift from old and worn-out definitions of masculinity to a more 1990s depiction of the American man.
The element that most relates both filmsand perpetuates the strong and pervasive ideology of the American dream is the aspect of recognition that both the film narratives apply. In It’s a Wonderful Life the recognition of happiness comes as a result of escalation of George’s inner conflict and enables the reaffirmation of the American dream by presenting that the conflicts between the opposed values are only illusory. As the film closes with reconciliation of the individual and community, the contrastive expectations of the dream synthesize. This reinforcement of traditional American ideologies that assure the promise of the American dream depending on community corresponds to the wartime imbalance that favored the universal cause over personal particular life. Thus, George Bailey delivers his statement of true happiness by presenting a model of the ordinary American man who proclaims that the social pressures of the postwar era are surmountable with the help of community, and the film becomes a story of the ordinary American man’s restored potency. In American Beauty Lester manages to defeat the feminine aspect that contributes to his identity crisis by asserting his physical strength and moral authority over his wife, but still pursues to reach what he believes to be the triumph of masculinity – the possession of Angela that presumably can liberate him from the ordinary, and which leads him to the resolution. This comes in the form of recognition of the true happiness (his family) accompanied by Lester’s death which demonstrates the death of the ordinary American man – the man who overcomes the crisis of identitybut who is defeated by the ‘real’ threat to American men, the ‘extraordinary’ forms of American manhood – the homosexual. And so Lester dies to re-assure the audience that the ordinary American man can overcome the crisis, but it is the alleged intimidation of the ordinary that destroys real American families and men, and which is the real threat to the American dream.
In conclusion, these two films are only an example of the pattern thatHollywooduses to recycle the American myth and revive the American man in contextually favorable environment, and which has the potential to succeed if processed in a socially responsive manner. As it has been pointed out Hollywood assigns the pursuit of the American dream to specific representations of the American man, who, via the dream pursuit perform gendered performative acts that define their identity, and who arecapable of addressing broad audiences in order to achieve best commercial effect, while at the same time imposealternatives of model manhood in cinema and thus reinforce conformity of masculine identities. Both of the presented heroes directly speak to American male audience of their era, whether it is George Bailey with his struggle to pursue the dream in postwar America, or Lester Burnham’s moral relativism of the late 1990s; and both of them attempt to share their experiences with their audiences and project the image of a dominant type of the American man surpassing his desires, intimidators, and enemies in the pursuit of theAmerican dream. And because the form of the representation of both the heroes is rigidly dependent on binary tradition supported bythe Oedipal trajectory that automatically presupposes masculine subjectification it reveals that Hollywood still continues to pursue the form of gender representation limited by measures of traditional patriarchal determination, however, using more inconspicuous and ambiguous patterns concealed under the more ostentatious display of the American myth that communicates the resilience of the American man in contemporary American society. The pattern is efficiently exploited byHollywoodin order to engrain the myth of the American dream in specific formulations of the male protagonist, and thus reinforces Foucauldian alternatives of gender identities which impose codes of normalcy onto the audience.
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 For more on this see Martina Martausová, „Recycling Hollywood: The Case of the Classical and 1990s Cinema“, in Ostrava Journal of English Philology, vol. 6, Issue 1, 2014, p. 117-129.
 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, or Walt Whitman, often referred to the vision of the American man „as the great democrat, or as the great, sane, healthy, native, American man“ (Clark 1955:112), and whose work despite much criticism is primarily interpreted as that celebrating a common American man of the late 19th century.
 WWII required a high degree of female participation in American economy and therefore posed a threat to men and their traditional role of providers. The employment of women strengthened women’s effort to undermine traditional gender and sexual roles. The restructuring of production systems during WWII also resulted in subsequent male migration to different forms of production upon their return, which affected their social location and family position. Women filling vacant positions in the time of war only reluctantly gave them up upon the return of their husbands, which led to important consequences for the re-location of men in society in the post-War America. For more on this, see Joshua Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
 Reluctant hero – this type of a hero represents one side of the dichotomy – individualism versus community, identifies with the outlaw (adventurer, explorer, gunfighter, wanderer, loner), and stands in the opposition to the official hero. As Robert Ray explains, reluctant hero stands for the American imagination that values self-determination and freedom from entanglements (Ray 1985:65). Later, reluctance became a characteristic trait of heroes in the Western, and it is also a common type of hero in contemporary cinema, represented by characters like Han Solo (Star Wars, 1977), Inman (Cold Mountain, 2003), Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit, 2012), and many others.
 Pattern often employed by the classicHollywood narrative to secure a successful completion of romance that in classicHollywood cinema constitutes a heterosexual couple, and which automatically presupposes masculine designation as the subject of a story.
 Christopher Garbowski, “Community and Comedy in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life”, in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, vol. 10, issue 3, 2007, p. 34.