Enter the Schlemiel: The Emergence of Inadequate or Incompetent Masculinities in Recent Film and Television
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Though a good deal has been written on the schlemiel, in literature as well as in film and television, its focus has been chiefly on the construction and/or critique of male Jewishness or, indeed, of Jewish masculinity. The figure of the schlemiel, however, may also be seen rather as representing the more general incompetent or inadequate masculinity that has become increasingly central to much film and television comedy —for example, much of the oeuvre of Ben Stiller, Napoleon Dynamite and American Pie, among the films, and, in television comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond and Kath and Kim. Linking Judith Butler's theory of gender as performative to the idea of "passing" to explore how traditionally masculine behaviours/performances may in fact be understood as ways for men to pass in a particular gender order, especially at a time when there is widespread cultural anxiety around a "crisis in masculinity," this paper explores the ways incompetent or inadequate performances of masculinity are recuperated into the hegemonic (patriarchal) gender order and simultaneously subvert and weaken that order.
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