Anima/Animus: Depardieu and the Projection of Masculinities

Ward, Wendy H. (2007). Anima/Animus: Depardieu and the Projection of Masculinities PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Queensland.

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Author Ward, Wendy H.
Thesis Title Anima/Animus: Depardieu and the Projection of Masculinities
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Joseph Hardwick
Abstract/Summary From his first starring role as the macho Jean-Claude in Bertrand Blier’s controversial Les Valseuses (1973), Gérard Depardieu’s imposing presence has left an indelible impression on cinema audiences – not only in his native France, but across the world. Through his enormous body of work (over 150 films), his enormous body has become the object of the collective gaze. This body, however, is the site of a paradox that has achieved the status of myth – rather than functioning as an unambiguous signifier of machismo, Depardieu’s power to fascinate the gaze appears to rest more on his ability to project a “feminine” fragility and vulnerability. This “brute au coeur tendre” (brute with the tender heart), as he has become universally known, takes apparent delight in challenging the boundaries of sex and gender – as attested by his extraordinarily diverse choice of roles, his unique performance style, and the ubiquitous references to his so-called femininity in countless media texts. Depardieu’s negotiation of gender has not necessarily been received as subversive. Ginette Vincendeau, for example, has argued that the actor’s incorporation of the feminine works to marginalise “real” women, while at the same time reinforcing his own (very heterosexual, very hegemonic) masculinity. It will be the contention of this thesis, however, that such arguments are unnecessarily reductive, in that they function to reinforce, rather than deconstruct, essentialist, binary-ordered notions of gender. In order to avoid the limitations of this approach, and to more thoroughly investigate the complexities of Depardieu’s persona and the diverse range of masculinities that he embodies, this thesis will apply aspects of Jungian theory (specifically, Jung’s theory of contrasexuality) to the close reading of a number of key films in the actor’s corpus. The final two chapters, which specifically address Depardieu’s embodiment of the queer, will also draw on Judith Butler’s theory of performativity. The plurality of gender being a key tenet of this investigation, the films presented for analysis have been chosen to represent a range of masculinities that Depardieu has embodied thus far. Moreover, to better reflect the diversity of the actor’s corpus, the selection has been drawn from a variety of genres – including auteur, mainstream Hollywood, comedy, drama, and heritage films. In contrast to the narrow focus of most Freudian-influenced approaches to gender, Jungian theory allows for plurality and fluidity by positioning the gender binary within the subject. From this broadened perspective, Depardieu’s relationship with the feminine can be understood as an ongoing performance of the process of individuation, the archetypal quest for wholeness through the balanced integration of masculine and feminine.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:18:11 EST