The cinema has often showcased the muscular male body, most notably in genres invoking classical Greco-Roman culture, whether peplum, epic or sword-and-sorcery. This book reassesses the classically-inflected action film as a significant cinematic form, often marginalized in media studies, that transcends such reductive labels as camp or kitsch. The focus is on the depiction of heroic masculinity, often characterized as reactionary or fascist, yet far more varied and contradictory, especially in relation to femininity and non-whiteness. These diverse representations of masculinity offer a major contribution to debates on maleness within and beyond academia that has been largely unexplored. In particular, Hercules in his many incarnations is one of the most important mythopoetic figures, on a par with King Arthur, Robin Hood, Tarzan and James Bond, informing popular cultural interpretations of manliness and the exaggerated male form.
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