cover of book

Washed in Blood: Male Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Cinema
by Claire Sisco King
Rutgers University Press, 2012
Paper: 978-0-8135-5160-9 | Cloth: 978-0-8135-5159-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8135-5206-4
Library of Congress Classification PN1995.9.H44K56 2012
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.43652


 2013 Outstanding Book Award, Critical Cultural Studies division of the National Communication Association

Will Smith in I Am Legend. Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. Charlton Heston in just about everything.

Viewers of Hollywood action films are no doubt familiar with the sacrificial victim-hero, the male protagonist who nobly gives up his life so that others may be saved. Washed in Blood argues that such sacrificial films are especially prominent in eras when the nation—and American manhood—is thought to be in crisis. The sacrificial victim-hero, continually imperiled and frequently exhibiting classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, thus bears the trauma of the nation.

Claire Sisco King offers an in-depth study of three prominent cycles of Hollywood films that follow the sacrificial narrative: the early–to–mid 1970s, the mid–to–late 1990s, and the mid–to–late 2000s. From Vietnam-era disaster movies to post-9/11 apocalyptic thrillers, she examines how each film represents traumatized American masculinity and national identity. What she uncovers is a cinematic tendency to position straight white men as America’s most valuable citizens—and its noblest victims.

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