While films such as Rambo, Thelma and Louise and Basic Instinct have operated as major points of cultural reference in recent years, popular action cinema remains neglected within contemporary film criticism.
Spectacular Bodies unravels the complexities and pleasures of a genre often dismissed as `obvious' in both its pleasure and its politics, arguing that these controversial films should be analysed and understood within a cinematic as well as a political context.
Yvonne Tasker argues that today's action cinema not only responds to the shifts in gendered, sexual and racial identities which took place during the 1980s, but reflects the influences of other media such as the new video culture. Her detailed discussion of the homoeroticism surrounding the muscleman hero, the symbolic centrality of blackness within the crime narrative, and the changing status of women within the genre, addresses the constitution of these identities through the shifting categories of gender, class, race, sex, sexuality and nation. Spectacular Bodies also examines the ambivalence of supposedly secure categories of popular cinema, questioning the existing terms of film criticism in this area and addressing the complex pleasures of this neglected form.
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Yvonne Tasker is a freelance lecturer and writer in film and cultural studies.Review:
Tasker's book employs tools forged by feminists to explore the contemporary action cinema most often associated with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a body of work too often dismissed, she says, as dumb movies for dumb people. Tasker argues that the heart of the recent action film is inscribed with ambiguous and complex shifting meanings in a discourse devoted primarily to issues of power and powerlessness....But hers is an accessible, well-written, provocative, and intelligent book about a cinema too popular to be ignored.
–CHOICE, Jan. 1995
Tasker demonstrats qualities rarely found in the application of theory to popular pleasure: an enthusiasm and clarity of style which actually makes you want to experience the pleasures yourself..
–Sight and Sound
...Spectacular Bodies is an exciting and accessible study which delivers on its objectives.
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