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Title:Failure to deliver: transitional masculinities in late and post Francoist films (1963-1984)
Author(s):Vivancos Alvarez, Ana M.
Director of Research:Delgado, Luisa-Elena
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Blake, Nancy
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Delgado, Luisa-Elena; Rushing, Robert A.; Desser, David M.
Department / Program:Comparative & World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
spanish cinema
spanish political transition
gender studies
Manolo Escobar
Alfredo Landa
paleto comedies
sexy comedies
Tercera Via films
Jose Sacristan
Bibi Andersen
Spanish subgeneric cinema
political cinema
male melodrama
spanish popular musicals
Abstract:After his electoral victory in the 1982 General Elections, Alfonso Guerra, the Vice President of the first Socialist Government after Franco's dictatorship declared, using a very coloquial Spanish expression: "Vamos a poner a España que no la va a conocer ni la madre que la parió" (we are going to change Spain so radically that not even her own mother is going to recognize her). That radical change proposed by Guerra had in fact started almost twenty years earlier: the 1960s and 70s constitute a period that was decisive for many aspects of Spanish society, ripe with transformations that would make the country a totally different one. After 38 years of dictatorship, the death of general Franco on November 20th, 1975 marked the symbolic end of an era, and the official beginning of a transformation that had begun more than a decade earlier. The 1960s brought a number of economic and social changes that led the country from Franco's post-civil war isolationism and his regime's tight control of culture and ideology to the opening to new ideas that were already circulating in the rest of Western Europe. The transformation was not only a political affair, but a revolution that, socially speaking, would not leave a stone unturned. Among the many social changes that were contemporary to this political upheaval, gender roles suffered a transformation that was equal---if not greater---in grade to the general change so colorfully described by Alfonso Guerra. I aim to study one aspect of that amazing transformation, and in particular, the way it affected masculine gender roles."Failure to Deliver: Transitional Masculinities in Late and Post Francoist Films (1963-1984)," explores the evolution of models of masculinity in mainstream cinema during these transitional years. This period is considered as one of the most prolific in Spanish film, as its corpus includes more than a thousand films that chronicled the social transformation from perspectives, themes, genres and variations in an almost limitless diversification. This short but extraordinarily fruitful period of Spanish cinema ended with the Law of Cinematography of 1982 and the progressive assimilation of its topics and styles to other European cinemas. I start by examining the historical circumstances that made possible the shift between the Catholic, patriarchal Spain that had remained basically unchanged for almost 200 years to the post-modern country that has become internationally known for its liberal views on the last years of the first decade of the 21st century. Economic, political and social factors had their role in Spain evolving from a mainly rural, underdeveloped country to an industrialized and urban society. The gist of such transformation can be summarized in a period of roughly 25 years: from the middle sixties, marked by the country's economic boom, called "desarrollismo," to the early eighties, and more exactly 1982, when the Socialist Party won the general elections and had access to power after almost 40 years of illegality under Franco's dictatorship. The clash between the conservative ideology endorsed by Francoism and the new social models that trickled into the country due to increased contact with the rest of Europe. Fueled on the one hand by migration of workers to Germany, Switzerland, and France, and, on the other hand, by the arrival of thousands of Northern European tourists to the Spanish beaches, Spaniards were brought into close contact new ideologies, cultural models and systems of belief. One of the most interesting aspects of the cinematic corpus of the period is the way that filmmakers negotiated the existence of censorship, and the effects of its disappearance. The end of censorship did not bring a sudden leap in quality, but it allowed the expression of social and political discourses that had been repressed for years. In such a context popular cinema appeared as a especially productive medium to express what had theretofore been clandestine or simply as a way to chronicle the social and political transformation that was taking place. Although the censorship of scripts pre-shootings ends by law in February of 1975, it is not until 1977 that this practice disappeared completely; at the same time that the country celebrates its first free and democratic elections after the dictatorship. In these circumstances political ideology became a pervasive presence in Spanish films of the period, but always within the limits of a realistic and generic formula that would make them accessible to popular audiences and not compromise their commercial careers. Thus, these films kept attracting audiences under the guise of generic formulas like the musical, the comedy or the melodrama. If in some case comedies or musicals would vindicate the ideological structures of the past, as the decade advanced melodramas were increasingly used as a way to build a critique of the politics of the dictatorship, while they appealed to nostalgic feelings and started a vein of social criticism. While the political aspects of this revolutionary period have been discussed exhaustively, issues of gender in Spanish film of the period have attracted much less attention until very recently. The transition period is particularly interesting when thinking of how the radical change in "systems of belief" marks a vertiginous evolution in the models of masculinity that were being given space in mainstream narratives. And cinema, in a country where the better part of the population had been denied access to higher education during almost forty years of dictatorship, remained one of the most important venues for the circulation of ideas, topics and concerns that affected the greater part of Spanish society. My dissertation explores the images and functions of masculinity as represented by four extremely popular Spanish actors/entertainers in mainstream Spanish cinema during the 1960s and 1970s. Although these films have been categorized as banal (particularly in Spain), my contention is that their popularity is linked to the fact that they capture the anxieties and projections of a changing society. I argue that the protagonists' failed attempt to reconcile Francoist moral values with neo-liberal modernization produces an inevitable contradictory performance of maleness, one that, often unwittingly, defies Spanish hetero-normative masculinity. Of particular interest to me is how their star personas can be linked to specific moments in the nation's history, as well as particular ways in which their fictional masculinities represent or contest traditional normative patriarchy and its relation with ideas of the nation. Along my dissertation's four chapters, I chart the evolution from the folksy, patriarchal image of singer and actor Manolo Escobar and his roles in rags-to-riches narratives in "españoladas" or Spanish folkloric musicals, to more critical views of masculinities in other popular genres such as comedies and melodramas. My first chapter deals with Escobar's model of a working-class man who reaches success and assumes the traditional values of patriarchy supported by Francoist ideology. In it, I study chronologically a number of his films that faithfully reflect national concerns (immigration, idealized representation of the rapid development of industrial and tourism sectors) in a rapidly changing society. My second chapter explores the roles played by Alfredo Landa, whose characteristic depictions of the stereotype of faulty Spanish masculinity were described with the generic term "Landismo." While Escobar always played characters who succeeded in their attainment of the privileges of traditional masculinity, Landa's male characters always faced a quandary. They invariably appear at a loss when, on the one side they are made to comply with the traditional role of family provider and dutiful husband, while on the other they also must face the new obligations---and temptations---that came with Spain's late industrialization and development of a potent tourist industry. I also present the evolution of Landa's later roles in films of the 1980s and 1990s, where he seems typecasted into characters who appear increasingly out of touch with the changing social mores. Once sexy comedies were made obsolete by the end of censorship, his star persona was increasingly identified with an ever more tragic narratives of old-fashioned men who were defeated in their struggle to impersonate a successful image of masculinity. My study also explores masculinities in transition to more nuanced and melodramatic models that emerged after the end of Francoist censorship, including the politicized characters---such as homosexuals and terrorists---played by actor José Sacristán. The third chapter analyzes the male melodramas in which Sacristán came to personify the Spanish average man and his "heroic" quest to ride the times. Not only did he represent characters who embodied the political fight for democracy, but also explored the limits of new gender definitions in narrations where women abandoned their traditional submission or by playing a number of homosexual roles, in melodramas were "coming out" could only be explicit when associated with a progressive political stand. The evolution of José Sacristán's star persona experienced a radical transformation. From his early comedic roles, similar to Alfredo Landa's representations of faulty masculinity, he went on to play a number of prominent roles in the films of the "Tercera vía" (the third way.) These name described a number of melodramas of the late seventies in which middle-aged characters struggled with the social transformations of the period by trying to shed a past of sexual and political repression and embrace the new post-Francoist freedoms. In them, Sacristán played characters who look for different models of masculinity, and often sublimate their repressions by trying to assume political leadership or a progressive lifestyle. Later on, this new model of masculinity included sexual nuances, as in the films of Eloy de la Iglesia---who assumed a political and moral stance with his melodramas about social outcasts---in which Sacristán played roles related not only to progressive politics but also to sexual deviancy. The final chapter of my dissertation is devoted to the actress Bibi Andersen, who first became famous in the early 1970s as a transsexual whose image became an icon of the social transformations that the whole country had gone through. I examine how her initial marginality found a way to become mainstream and her image was negotiated in Spanish media. More precisely, I look at films that narrativize that evolution and became poignant chronicles of the deep transformation that gender definitions suffered in little more than twenty years. From one of the first Spanish films on transsexuality, Cambio de sexo (Vicente Aranda, 1977), where she plays herself, to Pedro Almodóvar's early films, in which her roles are ironic comments not only of film genres, but also of traditional gender roles. Cast as a femme fatale, a mother who leaves her daughter to her transsexual ex-lover, or as a lesbian jail chick, her image renders a satiric comment at the same time that opens a world of endless possibility when gender ascriptions are concerned. In fact, her contemporary ubiquitous image in the media as an elegant middle-aged woman, is not only constantly present in Spanish television's talk shows, but is also the public image for a line of beauty products. Bibi Andersen---who now has changed her name to a more Spanish version, Bibiana Fernández---bears witness to the fact that star discourses are closely related with social upheaval and change. Stars can become indissolubly associated with particular genres, but they can also trade on this relationship later on their careers, exemplifying social trends and evolution. In the case of Andersen, her constant evolution unveils the power of mainstream media to assimilate marginal discourses and commodify them for mass consumption. But if we assume a historical perspective, Andersen's success in remaining a public figure points to a contemporary tendency towards recovering certain gender models that at one point seemed at the verge of extinction and revalidate them through performativity. In summary, my dissertation studies the evolution of the masculine role models in Spanish mainstream cinema during the transition to democracy. Based upon insights drawn from Film Studies methodologies such as Star and Genre Studies, I argue that this process reflects the anxiety and self-perceptions of Spaniards as well as the relation between gender and ideas of the nation. I argue that upon awakening from a 40 year stagnant period of patriarchal traditionalism, Spanish society needed to come to terms with the paradigms of new urban, industrialized and late capitalistic modes in a comparatively short period of time, and that the fast transformation of masculine roles in mainstream film is one of the main witness of its consequences.
Issue Date:2010-08-31
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Ana M. Vivancos Alvarez
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-31
Date Deposited:2010-08

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