Losers, meritocracy, and Identification
During the Clinton and Bush era, there has been considerable cinematic interest in the most hopeless, wretched, and pathetic type of male: the loser. Some actors (Adam Sandier, William H. Macy, Christian Slater, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell) have made their careers playing the type. Renowned writers and filmmakers, most notably Judd Apatow and the Coen brothers, have created a series of dolts, from the lead character in Barton Fink (1991, John Turturro) and the Dude in The Big Lebowski (1998, Jeff Bridges) to Everett McGill (George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000) and Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) in the aptly named The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). The Coen brothers’ Academy Award-winning Fargo (1996) practically teems with useless men (Jerry Lundegaard, Carl Showalter, and the father-in-law Wade, played by Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Harve Presnell, respectively; see Tyree and Walters 63–65). The loser may be a “niche”-character rather than a dominant type. But he certainly does get noticed, partly because he stands in the greatest imaginable contrast to the dominant film hero of earlier ages, such as the Reaganite tough-guy warrior heroes Rambo, Rocky, Indiana Jones, Robocop, Dirty Harry, and virtually every role Schwarzenegger ever played (Jeffords, Hard Bodies 19).
KeywordsHard Body True Love Happy Family Life Societal Critique Domestic Total
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