Tragic Masculinities and Craig Mazin's Chernobyl

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


In Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl, the masculinities surrounding the 1986 accident at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant are presented as a nexus of tragic incompetence. This chapter will explore how this depiction functions as an interchange between the contemporary ‘crisis’ of masculinity in Western popular culture and the representations of masculinity as articulated by the Reaganite cinema of the 1980s. To do so, the chapter will first contrast the depictions of hegemonic masculinity, exploring how the dominant position of men is legitimised and reinforced. In the context of Mazin’s Chernobyl, the chapter will propose that the representation of masculine hierarchical power relations leads to the formation of a social organisation that results in the perpetuation of failure, where subordinated identities are unable to ‘break through’ and affect change. Whereas, in the action cinema of the Reagan decade, the opposite occurs, with individuals disrupting ineffective hierarchical power relations to resolve crises in a celebration of hypermasculine triumph. In the second instance, the chapter will explore how this re-evaluation of the role of tragic masculine incompetence in the Chernobyl disaster is located away from the West and is directly connected to the social and political apparatus of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the chapter will propose that this distance forms an antithetical relationship with the restorative or sympathetic modes of nostalgic representation related to 1980s masculinity, as articulated by North American situated television series such as The Goldbergs, Stranger Things or Young Sheldon.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe '80s Resurrected
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on the Decade in Popular Culture Then and Now
EditorsRandy Laist
PublisherMcFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9781476648552
ISBN (Print)9781476686516
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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