Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Wild Things

Music and Masculinity in Something Wild and Blue Velvet

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2012), 6, (2), 163–183.

Abstract

Both Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 1986) and Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) question contemporary conservative social agendas, but also subtly confirm traditional, paternalistic images of masculinity by using music to undermine their male protagonists' ability to play conventional male heroes. Popular music in both films works to seduce the male protagonists into heady, disorienting relationships with women that inspire them to face unwonted danger and violence. Together, the films offer up an unsettling vision of male possibility, locating the capacity for masculine growth and achievement in a redefining, even transformative encounter with female desire and authority. They presuppose a certain innocence in their male protagonists that female musical performance or spectacle will educate by violent means, tapping the sensuousness and immediate emotional appeal of popular music to present male protagonists who acquire power and authority by submitting themselves to women.

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Walter, Brian