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Riabov, Oleg

Gendering the Enemy in the Soviet and the American Cold War Films

The aim of the paper is to investigate the ways with which the Soviet and the American films exploited the gender discourse to represent Ours and Theirs, to create the symbolic boundaries, and to produce the social hierarchies. The materials consist of the movies and the documentaries of the First Cold War (1945-1963), including ‘Vstrecha na El’be’, ‘Golubaia Strela’, ‘Chrezvychainoe Proisshestvie’, ‘Zagovor obrechennykh’; ‘Iron Petticoat’, ‘Invasion. USA’, ‘Silk Stockings’, ’Jet Pilot’, ‘One, Two, Three’, ‘Red Nightmare’, and others. The units of the analysis are: 1) characterizing by the cinema the gender orders of Ours and Theirs as a whole; 2) exploiting the gender metaphors (masculinization and feminization of Ours and Theirs) and symbols (Mother Russia, America as the Whore of Babylon, etc.); 3) representing the canons of masculinity and femininity; 4) picturing the images of family, marriage, love, and sexuality.

The basic discursive practice of the Cold War rhetoric was the accusations of the Enemy in perverting the human nature, though the Soviet films blamed the Enemy for sexual profligacy, meanwhile the American ones – for unattractiveness and asexuality. The cinema showcased the superiority of the gender order of Ours by visual (e.g., representing bodies) and narrative means. Accentuating the superiority of masculinity of Ours and emasculating the Enemy, a number of the movies contained a love story between a man of Ours and a woman of Theirs. To stress the feminine vulnerability of the nation of Ours and thus to mobilize the gender identity, the Cold War rhetoric at the same time pictured the Enemy in a hypermasculine guise, representing it as a ‘sexual aggressor’. The Enemy as a seducer served as one more motif of the imaginary Cold War. At last, the films exploited the gender discourse in othering the internal Enemies too, therefore supporting the social orders within their own cultures.

Friday 30 Oct, 13.45-15.45 SESSION 5
Panel: On the Big Screen: Cinema in the Cold War I