Italian Cinema pp 173-214 | Cite as

The Man With No Name: Masculinity as Style in the Spaghetti Western

  • Maggie Günsberg


The spaghetti western is notorious for its memorable iconography of masculinity involved in sadomasochistic violence taken to surreal excess and displayed in close-up detail. Its homosocial and predominantly homoerotic base allows little room, as a rule, for femininity and heterosexuality (Landy 2000, p. 190). Films featuring central female characters are few, and even in these cases femininity is usually represented exclusively through sexuality, often directly through prostitution (for example, Leone’s C’era una volta il West, 1969, and Marcellini’s Lola Colt, 1967). A rare spaghetti western by a female director, Lina Wertmüller’s Il mio corpo per un poker (1968), centres on a female outlaw (the real-life Belle Starr), but even in her case emphasis is on her physical beauty, with sexual attractiveness remaining the dominant focus. In other words, it is how these women look, rather than what they do, that is crucial to their role, namely as token affirmation of male heterosexuality in a homosocial and homoerotic genre. Instead, given the paucity of central female characters, the positions of femininity can be seen taken up by the racial, rather than gendered, other of dominant white masculinity, and on occasion by feminized adolescent or homosexual masculinity.


Male Body Male Character Female Character Ticket Price Oedipus Complex 
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Copyright information

© Maggie Günsberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maggie Günsberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManchesterUK

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