Representations of Masculinity in Film
Real men don’t cry. Men who show emotion are seen as pathetic and weak, whereas society want men to be strong, athletic and powerful. This assignment will include an identification and analysis, in the film American Pie (American Pie, 1999) of the six different representations of masculinity and their impact on the story and the audience. The analysis will comply of the identification of six specific characters that embody the male gender stereotypes, or their subversions. The six male gender stereotypes are: the Joker, the Jock, the Strong Silent Type, the Big Shot, the Action Hero and the Buffoon. These are important to identify because they appear in all movies which we tend to be oblivious to at times. Knowing the different types of stereotypes help you gain a better understanding of the film.
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“The Jock is always willing to “compromise his own long-term health; he must fight other men when necessary; he must avoid being soft; and he must be aggressive” (NMMU, 2014). By demonstrating his power and strength, the jock wins the approval of other men and the adoration of women.” The function of a jock in a film is to create a social structure in a school and to give the image of an ideal American teenager. In the film American Pie there are a few protagonists that resemble the jock stereotype. Chris “Oz” Ostreicher is one of the characters in the movie that portrays this stereotype. Oz is a great representation of a jock as he embodies all the characteristics. Oz is a typical all American male teenager who plays football and lacrosse, manages to swoon the ladies and he is at the top of the social hierarchy at school. Oz is a well groomed man where his good looks far surpass his academic abilities. A prime example of this in the film is when Oz tells all his friends that he has been seeing a collage girl and that soon they will be moving onto the next level in their ‘relationship’. This is done to acquire the approval from all his friends, especially from Steven Stifler, and the other popular males. Another character that embodies the jock stereotype is Steven “Steve” Stifler. Steve is an egotistical big-headed sports driven high school student. The evidence in the film that he is a jock are proven because he plays lacrosse and football with Oz. When Steve is faced with situations that could place any damage on his reputation he tends to react in an aggressive manner. Another instance of the jock stereotype is highlighted when Steve has a house party at his residence. Everybody from school who is popular enough to be invited inside is there. Then the doorbell rings during the party and the whole musical band from school are standing outside his door. Steve refuses to let them inside because they are not cool enough and might ruin his reputation. This shows that Steve has a desire to main supreme amongst the rest of the jocks. When it comes to the ladies, Steve only uses them for his benefit and gain. Steve takes a girl to his room but she refuses to kiss him as she does not want him to go around joking about her with his friends the very next day. Steve lies and tells her that he would never do that just so that she could feel better. He even gives her false compliments just so that she would become putty in his hands allowing him to take advantage of her. To analyse the above stereotype both of the protagonists personify the characteristics of a typical high school jock. Although Oz and Steve are both the popular boys at school they have a very different way of showing it. Oz is much friendlier and kinder whereas Steve is arrogant and aggressive. These characters are driven by their sporting talents because for them sport is the only thing that makes you a real man. They see woman as objects and not as human beings. Therefore the film American Pie excels at representing the jock stereotype in the movie.
“The Joker is a very popular character with boys, perhaps because laughter is part of their own “mask of masculinity.” A potential negative consequence of this stereotype is the assumption that boys and men should not be serious or emotional” (NMMU, 2014)The function of a joker in a film is to allow for comedic relief and to create a relaxed atmosphere as well as making inappropriate jokes at times. Stifler is the joker in the film as he is constantly making comments throughout the movie that makes people laugh. A joker is popular among males which makes Stifler one of the most popular boys at East Great Falls High. Stifler makes every serious situation a joke and does not allow for emotions to come into play. Another example of the joker stereotype in the film is when Stifler pours laxatives into Finch’s drink as he knows Finch does not use the school’s toilets. Stifler has everybody laughing at this prank. This character was effective because Stifler is a very dominate character and so he makes up a lot of different stereotypes because of his personality. He never shows emotions and is never serious about anything. Stifler is only worried about, Lacrosse, woman and his popularity.
“The Strong Silent Type focuses on “being in charge, acting decisively, containing emotion, and succeeding with women.” This stereotype reinforces the assumption that men and boys should always be in control, and that talking about one’s feelings is a sign of weakness” (NMMU, 2014).The function of this type in a film is to allow for those characters that are dominant and strong yet who show emotion to have a role in the film. Although Oz is a jock in the film he also starts to display characteristics of a strong silent type. Oz and his friends made a pact that by the end of high school they should all have lost their virginity. Oz believes that it is a good idea to join the choir as the girls are perceived to be naïve and innocent and would be easy prey. Oz decides that he is now going to try get rid of his reputation of being an insensitive jock and become more caring and sensitive towards ladies. He meets a girl named Heather, who sings in the choir, and he immediately feels an attraction towards her. For now he can only think of the pact his friends made and how he can use Heather as his victim to fulfil the deal. Steve, Kevin and Jim are all watching Oz while he sings and so after the choir practice Stifler asks Oz what his game plan is for joining the choir. Oz validates himself saying that he needs to find a girl to complete the deal they all made. “Chris “Oz” Ostreicher: [On being sensitive] You ask them questions, and listen to what they have to say and s**t. Steve Stifler: I dunno, man, that sounds like a lot of work” (IMDb, 1990-2014). This is the first glimpse of evidence that there is a slight start to showing emotion and care for Heather. As the film continues there is a complete change in Oz as he starts to focus more on Heather than his sport. He even leaves in the middle of the most important lacrosse game of the season to go and sing in a choir competition. When he arrives at the auditorium where the competition is taking place he grabs Heather in a passionate embrace and kisses her. This highlights that he has grown true and honest feeling for her. Heather and Oz end up breaking their virginity on prom night but promise to not tell anybody. At the end of the movie Oz believes that he is starting to fall in love with his girlfriend, Heather. Kevin Myers is also a strong silent type but it is not as obvious as in Oz’s case. The reason why Kevin falls under this stereotype is because he loves to take control and dominate the group. He even comes up with an idea that Finch, Oz, Jim an himself must lose their virginity before graduation from high school. They all make a pact and agree upon it. Kevin is the main instigator and inventor of this pact, and so all the drama that occurs as a result of the plan is because of Kevin’s idea. Another reason why he is the strong silent type is because he succeeds with woman and is a ladies man. He hides all his emotion about his feelings for his girlfriend away from her. When Kevin’s girlfriend tells him that she loves him, he is stunned and speechless. He doesn’t know how to express himself because he does not want to lose his credibility as a man if he is seen as emotional. Kevin eventually tells his girlfriend that he loves her before they have sexual intercourse. This can be seen as a way of manipulating his girlfriend into sleeping with just so that he can abide by the pact. This stereotype is well portrayed in Oz’s case. They show the transition from a sport crazy jock to becoming a choir singing sensitive man. It is very effective as it shows that men are allowed to show emotion and feelings, they don’t always have to be as hard as bricks. Although showing emotion for a male is seen as weak, Oz shows emotion in such a way that it doesn’t affect his jock status it only makes himself look like a better person. Kevin is also portrayed effectively although he is not as clear as Oz, he is still a strong silent type. Kevin portrays more of a dominate role in this case than Oz does. Both roles have been displayed accurately and in an effective manner.
“The Big Shot is defined by his professional status. He is the “epitome of success, embodying the characteristics and acquiring the possessions that society deems valuable. “ This stereotype suggests that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful” (NMMU, 2014).The big shot stereotype includes a number of characters. Stifler is a big shot as he believes that he rules the school and everybody in it. He is arrogant and insensitive to others. Stifler loves to have parties and drink alcohol which high school students consider to be enjoyable. Stifler has no respect for woman at all. He believes that they are only there to satisfy his personal needs. Chuck Sherman also embodies this stereotype as he makes all his ‘friends’ believe that he is going to sleep with a beautiful girl. The very next morning when these men wake up they witness Sherman coming downstairs with this girl. He then proceeds to lie to his friends and tell them that they were busy the entire night. Meanwhile they had been having an in-depth conversation with one another instead. At prom the truth about this incident is revealed when this girl, who Sherman claimed he had sex with, tells everybody that he is a liar and that it never happened. Paul Finch is the third character to portray a big shot, he does this by the way he behaves and speaks. An example in the movie is when they are at Stifler’s house party after prom. Finch has no date and decides to walk around the house until he comes across a room that he is out of bounds. Inside the room he finds Stifler’s mother drinking and smoking. His attitude changes immediately and acts much older than he really is. He starts to seduce Stifler’s mother by means of his big shot personality. He drinks whiskey with her which is regarded as an adults drink, but Finch believes he is far more mature than the young boys downstairs. Finch then sleeps with Stifler’s mother which causes problems the next morning. Kevin is the last big shot character in the film. Kevin says that “[o]ur very manhood is at stake” (American Pie, 1999) with regards to their lack of sexual encounters. Kevin has formed a pact with his friends which states that they have to lose their virginity by the time they graduate. Kevin becomes a jerk at Stifler’s house party when he wants to have sex with Vicky, his girlfriend, but she is not willing. He almost becomes forceful during the movie when she does not want to give it to him. His big shot personality is seen when he is walking downstairs at the party and says to Jim “enough with the blowjob bull s**t, I gotta get laid already” (American Pie, 1999).Vicky over hears this and is distraught. He is a big shot in the terms that he just wants to lose his virginity and thinks that he can take control and force Vicky into it. All these characters were portrayed exceptionally well. They were very easily spotted in the film as their characteristics matched those of the big shot stereotype. The big shots are those that have power and require things that society believes is valuable which are women, sex and popularity. They manages to use their power to seduce the woman in order to acquire what is important to them, which is to lose their virginity.
“The Action Hero is strong, but not necessarily silent. He is often angry. Above all, he is aggressive in the extreme and, increasingly over the past several decades, he engages in violent behaviour” (NMMU, 2014). In the film American Pie the best example of an action hero is the character Steve Stifler. He embodies many different types of stereotypes. He is your typical big cheese, know it all type of guy. If he has been humiliated and embarrassed by somebody he will use force to take his revenge on them and is very aggressive when things do not go his way. His anger is his form of a mask that covers and hides his emotions from the world. An example would be when Steve Stifler finds out that Finch is spreading rumours about himself. A rumour involving Steve had been spread around campus which was that Finch had beaten Steve in a fist fight. Steve was overwhelmed with anger when he heard the rumour, as it embarrassed him and hurt his creditability. Steve reacted to this seeking revenge, he then decides to put a high dosage of laxatives into Finch’s regular mochacchino. The outcomes of Steve’s joke allowed for the embarrassment and rumours about his weakness to be forgotten and for all the good attention to be drawn back to him and for all the laughter to be focused on someone he sees as lower than him. This allows the audience to view his aggression and low self-esteem issues. In analysis to the character of the action hero in the film it is extremely well portrayed as the character is your typical big man on campus. This character shows that there is much more to him then he allows you to see, and is prepared to reveal to the public. This allows the audience to understand the character and his feelings better. This gives the viewer the chance to see another side of the character. This makes Steve seem strong and intimidating on the outside but in fact he is a normal human with feelings just like everybody else on the inside.
“The Buffoon commonly appears as a bungling father figure in TV ads and sitcoms. Usually well-intentioned and light-hearted, these characters range from slightly inept to completely hopeless when it comes to parenting their children or dealing with domestic (or workplace) issues” (NMMU, 2014). The function of a buffoon in a film is to add entertainment and light hearted laughter. Noah Levenstein is the perfect example of a buffoon in the film, as he has no idea of how to raise his son properly when it comes to teenagers’ problems. It is evident in the film that Noah is a buffoon. The film starts with Jim, his son, watching a bad quality porn movie. Noah then helped his son by agreeing with him. This is the first sign that the father is going to be a funny and laid back father. Later in the film Noah visits Jim in his room and decides to have a conversation about sex. He tries to give his son sexual advice and brings him pornographic magazines. Further along in the film Noah comes home to his son performing sexual acts to an apple pie that his mother had baked. The father then helps Jim to clean up the kitchen and he then comes up with the idea that they will tell his wife that they had eaten the pie. Noah decided to help cover up Jims actions so that he would not get in trouble with his mother. “We’ll just tell your mom we ate it” (American Pie, 1999). In the end of the movie Noah opens his son’s bedroom door and sees Jim dancing in a sexual manner. Noah smiles at what he sees and starts breaking into very similar dance moves and shouts for his wife saying “Sweetheart” (American Pie, 1999). The use of the buffoon is very effective in the overall film. The character was portrayed perfectly and so it made identifying the buffoon very easy. Noah embodies all the characteristics a buffoon usually expresses. The protagonist is portrayed accurately in this film and allows for people to easily connect with the character. Analysing the above character makes it clear that the buffoon is one of the main sources of comedy in a movie. It is an effortless yet at times awkward.
To conclude, in this film it is evident that male stereotypes are rife. In society, males are meant to be strong and unbreakable whereas not every man is the same. This allows for the different stereotypes to be formed as some males fall under the popular category while others are more emotional.
American Pie. 1999. [Film] Directed by Paul Weitz. United States of America: Universal Pictures, Zide-Perry Productions, Newmarket Capital Group, Summit Entertainment.
IMDb, 1990-2014. Quotes for Chris “Oz” Ostreicher. [Online]
Available at: http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0002450/quotes
[Accessed 13 May 2014].
Janelle Vermaak NMMU course notes 2014
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