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Men on the Screen

Re-visions of Masculinity in Spanish Cinema (1939-2019)

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Edited By Juan Rey

Cinema, whether it is understood as entertainment, business, criticism, or art, is always a reflection of the society in which it is born. Men on the Screen is a review of masculinity in cinema made in Spain by Spanish directors from 1939 to the present. The objective of this volume is, then, to observe the different types of masculinities, whose classification gives rise to a chronology that goes from the man who embodies the dream dreamt by the dictator Franco to the modern man, who is lost in his labyrinth, while also examining the repressed men, those men who have strayed and who live in the city, the rascals and braggarts, those who fight every day just to survive, the petty criminals, those men who divest themselves of the rancid national-Catholicism in order to be themselves, those who are caring, those who harass and kill their prey, the heroes, those who seduce women with their gab, corrupt politicians, those who sell their bodies, grandparents, violent and chauvinistic men, those who live in anguish for the passage of time, and even those immured by repressing and hypocritical morality. All of the masculine categories delineated above indicate that cinema is a reflection of the great changes experienced by Spanish society during these years. During this long period, Spain has gone from being a poor, isolated, dark, sad, politically and religiously depressed country to becoming a dynamic, modern country, one of the great countries of the West. And these transformations, these men, who are diverse, who are in conflict at times, and who are depressed, hopeful, hungry, consumerist, and dreamers—they are what cinema gathers. What follows next is a catalog of men who have wandered and roamed the Spanish screens.

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13. The Tragic Man: Cyber-Genealogy of the Impossible Male

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Juan J. Vargas-Iglesias1

The British writer and Hispanist Gerald Brenan recalls, in the pages of The Spanish Labyrinth, that the conservative politician Antonio Cánovas del Castillo once argued that “son españoles los que no pueden ser otra cosa” (“Spaniards are those people who can not be anything else”).1 This statement, uttered by someone who was far from being a Frenchified subversive, contains all the tragic weight of a Spain to which the political watchmen themselves believed to be burdened by a secular inability to be something different; it is viewed as an empire in decline, that through a process of decomposition, would culminate with the total loss of its colonies in 1898. Ultimately, it encapsulates the ideological algorithm that founded the alternation of power between liberals and conservatives, concocted withouth the Spanish citizen’s involvement, during the reign of Alfonso XIII.

The conditions of possibility of twentieth-century Spain (and with them, the Spain that was first exposed to cinema) are therefore based on a deep political and social pessimism that would precipitate one of the most turbulent times of European modernity. It was a progression from monarchical decadence to a republican utopia, then to the dark terrors of fascism and ultraconservative latency, and from here to a democracy whose balancing act has been hiding for years a sinister storehouse of corrupt and untreated historical wounds. The Spanish twentieth century, like the nineteenth, can be described following a pattern of constant returns to...

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