Gender, ideational populism and the eighties action cinema

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Responding to the increased visibility of populist demagogues in the critical and cultural discourses of contemporary Western society, recent activity within the academy has sought to clarify, develop and (re)define populism as a phenomenon. Via analyses of Aliens (Cameron, 1986), The Running Man (Glaser, 1987) and Robocop (Verhoeven, 1987), this chapter draws upon these conceptualisations to revisit a sample of action heroes from the eighties action cinema. Exploring the intersection of these gendered identities with the aesthetics of ideational populism, the chapter demonstrates how such texts have helped shape the nature of the action cinema genre from the outset. In doing so, the chapter considers (1) how these narratives construct a duality of homogenous antagonistic groups, organised around a virtuous people and corrupt self-serving elite, thereby mirroring the fundamental conditions of populism, (2) how the super-objectives guiding the principles and actions of characters operate as gendered and thin-centred ideologies which fail to offer meaningful solutions to the wider socio-political issues encountered, and (3) how Richards, Ripley and Robocop are positioned as self-appointed demagogues, who pursue personal, rather than common, solutions and often operate without conventional societal constraints.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Action Films 1980-2000
EditorsSteven Gerrard, Renee Middlemost
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781801175067
ISBN (Print) 9781801175074
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022


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