William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law; Vice Provost of the University; Faculty with the Feminist Critical Analysis Seminar
Originally Published In
Davis, Adrienne D., Film Review: Masculinity & Interracial Intimacy in 'Star Trek' and 'Gran Torino' (November 11, 2009). New Political Science Journal, Vol. 32, p. 163, 2010; Washington U. School of Law Working Paper No. 10-03-07. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1571713
Race has long been a central object of political reflection. The salience of racial difference remains hotly debated, figuring in both "utopian" and "dystopian" visions of America’s political future. If race is a primary configuration of "difference" and inequality in the nation, then intimacy between the races is often construed as either a bellwether of equality and political utopia or a re-inscribing of political dominance, typically represented as sexual predation by men against women. Quite expectedly, these political fantasies and fears are often played out at the multiplex, and we can see them in stark relief in two recent films that seem to have nothing in common, Clint Eastwood’s highly acclaimed but Oscar-snubbed Gran Torino and last summer’s high-octane blockbuster, Star Trek. This film review explores how both films render conventional (white) masculinity as in crisis, threatened by alternative masculine forms. In both films this crisis of masculinity translates into a political one that threatens the values and viability of the community. In both, a carefully negotiated interracial intimacy redeems masculinity, and, in the process, the political future. While interracial intimacy is often configured as heterosexual coupling, in both films, women of color expedite interracial intimacy, but the meaningful and redemptive intimacy is homo-social, between men.
Davis, Adrienne D., "Film Review: Gran Torino and Star Trek" (2010). Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Research. 13.