Therefore, this paper is not a film review, but a technical research paper. It is however, not a full thesis or complete research study, but general thoughts on masculinity with a general aim of understanding it better. The paper uses scholarly ideas or theories and relates these to the selected movie in order to draw new insights on masculinity.
The chosen theme or recurring working idea for this paper is the understanding and appreciation of masculinity. This effort to understand is made through an analysis of previous ideas on masculinity drawn from papers or researches of scholars on the issue of gender and masculinity. Meanwhile, appreciation is derived through a chosen visual presentation or a film from which a more graphic representation of ideas on masculinity can be derived. The film chosen for this paper, the movie Les Miserables is a Golden Globe Award winner for Best Picture in Hollywood this December 2012.
The significance of this paper can easily be seen from the important social developments starting the late twentieth century, more particularly the 1960s and 1970s. During these years, feminism and the gay movements started to change the outlook of societies towards gender and sexuality (Peoples 9). Since then, traditional beliefs and biases on masculinity and femininity started to erode. This very well shows that gender is not a static, but rather a dynamic reality. This dynamism behind gender has been especially portrayed, if not exploited by the powerful media of communications today. In turn, mass media have served to hasten the dynamism of change in human sexuality and gender. Thus during our own times, dramatic social and cultural changes have introduced the rather unexpected recognition of gay rights in the U.S. military, legalization of gay marriages in some countries, surgical male-to-female sex changes in modern medicine, and other social and cultural alterations or reforms. The need to understand issues on masculinity is therefore important, as the dynamism of gender and manhood continues to escalate until our day. And as shall be shown later, the issues relating to masculinity may have created a global impact in which even the security and sustainability of democratic states and the world may be at stake. This shall be discussed later, but for more clarity, the following questions are proposed as the main problems in this paper: 1. What is the appropriate understanding of masculinity? 2. What are the major concepts of masculinity that relate to its dynamic nature? 3. How does the movie Les Miserables portray the major concepts of masculinity? 4. What lessons can be drawn from the above conceptual and visual analysis of masculinity? Studies on gender and manhood To understand masculinity, there is a need to analyze ideas or theories introduced by scholars or researchers on this issue. This is an appropriate approach since our modern societies are today knowledge-based societies. Scientific studies have become the lever to awaken awareness, impart understanding, and formulate theories on social issues. This paper has therefore sought concepts expounded by scientific theorists on gender and manhood. From these theories, an appropriate understanding of masculinity can be derived. In this regard, the study made by Christopher T. Kilmartin deserves consideration. In his book The Masculine Self, Kilmartin clarifies the concept of masculinity by differentiating between sex and gender (14). For him, sex is a biological frame of reference to the male or female as this relates to genes, hormones, genetalia, and other physical aspects of the human body. On the other hand, gender is a broader frame of reference