The Man Who Could Go Either Way: The Many Faces of Cowboy Masculinity in 1950s American Film and AdvertisingPublic Deposited
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This thesis explores the cowboy as an iconic figure of white masculinity in the middle-class in 1950s America, focusing on film and advertising as a means of interpreting images of idealized manhood. It explores films including High Noon, Rio Bravo, and The Searchers, as well as print advertising from Levi’s and Marlboro, to juxtapose different projections of masculinity. It finds that, contrary to expectation, the cowboy was not just a singular image of stoicism and martial power, opposed to domesticity and consumerism. Instead, he was more of a language through which different values could be expressed. This creates an intriguingly contradictory image: the cowboy is domesticity and anti-domesticity, invincibility and anxiety, fashion and anti-fashion, and a relic of America’s past and the herald of its future all at once. In this regard he becomes a surrogate for diverse masculinities interacting on the backdrop of the early Cold War.
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