Panel Proposal: CAAS Annual Conference, Waterloo, ON, Oct. 24-27: The Commodification of Masculinity in Contemporary America

full name / name of organization: 
Terrance McDonald / Brock University
contact email: 

Call for Papers for Proposed Panel
Canadian Association for American Studies Conference: "Total Money Makeover": Culture and the Economization of Everything – Oct. 24-27, 2013 - Waterloo, ON

Panel Subject: The Commodification of Masculinity in Contemporary America

In response to the conference's theme, Culture and the Economization of Everything, this panel seeks to analyze masculinity as an increasingly visual commodity in American culture. While masculinity has long been associated with visual characteristics, it can be argued that recently the male image has taken precedent over other characteristics of masculinity – such as attributes or behaviours traditionally associated with masculinity. Given the overwhelming permeation of our culture by visual images (Sturken and Cartwright 2001), what is at stake is how this visualization effects how we think masculinities, and moreover gender, in our contemporary, visually saturated popular culture. As Thomas Elsaesser observes contemporary Hollywood films become the means for after-markets – such as video sales, t-shirts, and other products – which can be extended into a succession of commodities associated with socially constructed masculinities beyond traditional marketing tie-ins, e.g., Tyler Durden's leather pants and abs (Fight Club) or the Dude's white Russians and sunglasses (The Big Lebowski). These after-markets do not simply bring a subject closer to the appearance of an onscreen masculinity; instead, they insert a subject into an endless cycle of consumption in an attempt to embody the lifestyle the onscreen masculinity promotes. Although masculinity and film is a popular topic, few studies have investigated the commodification of masculinity and the role film has in this process as both a catalyst and a critic. This panel aims to analyze the relationship between masculinity and the image in American culture as well as masculinity's commodification as a result of this relationship. Though this call specifically references American cinema, I shall also consider proposals that analyze television, video games, street art, music videos, etc.

Potential topics for the panel include:

- masculinity as a visual commodity
- contemporary Hollywood cinema's construction of masculinity
- critique of masculinity as a visual commodity
- emerging "new" masculinities and their relationship with the image
- subversion of "traditional" and commodified masculinities via the image
- fluctuating or ongoing negotiations of masculinities
- icons of masculinity and their commodification
- popular film's influence on or as marketing
- non-Hollywood representations of masculinities
- images of masculinity that resist commodification

Please send a 300 word abstract with 3 bibliographic references and a brief biographical note to Terrance McDonald ( by March 8, 2013. Selections for the panel will be made by March 10, 2013 – if you have any questions please email me.