One Man: The Eternal Subject of Hollywood? (Video)

Montage of movie trailers comedically shows Hollywood’s obsession with the exploits of the “one man” throughout the last few decades.

While we don’t hear many voice-overs on movie trailers anymore, it is funny and telling to see how bedeviled we were (still are?) with the one man who conquers the bad guys, saves the world, and gets the girl. What I find most interesting are the racial and gender stereotypes that come to the fore—the only woman is promoting a romantic comedy, all Asian men are martial arts experts, and men of color are hardly ever the protagonist.  How do you think the movie industry and our escapism fantasy has changed?  How has it remained the same?


About Ross Steinborn

Ross recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Christian theology and gender studies, with a focus on masculinity studies. From central IL, he now lives with his partner in South Boston.


  1. Mike from MA says:

    Same: I think movies go back to classic archetypes in anxious times—when their society experiences a real loss of power or status. The antihero seems to come in when the crisis has either passed or ended in disaster. That’s a time of bitter revaluation. The old verities and myths get chewed up then. If things end well, there seems to be a tendency to rubbish the whole hero fixation a bit, possibly out of embarrassment at our earlier cravenness.

    Different: The solitary men of our wish-fictions are so much more one-dimensional. Compare the conflicts and complexities of a hero in full like Achilles with the antics and swagger of Iron Man. The best bad guys are also solitary men of action (or at least isolated in their self-interest) and much more complex and interesting (then: Michael Corleone, Darth Vader; now: Don Draper, Walter White, Loki; and I’d put Daniel Craig’s grim, flinty Bond nearer this end of the spectrum).

  2. How do you think the movie industry and our escapism fantasy has changed?
    I think the “one man” fantasy has changed if no other reason than the way he is depicted. Most people will lament over how he’s still a straight white guy but take a closer look. For example he used to have the reputation of being a loner (like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon) but now we sometimes see a family man (like Liam Nesson in the Taken movies).

    How has it remained the same?
    I would say that with the way men are depicted they still haven’t access their full range of what possibilities we could see in a movie star largely because of old tropes like the “one man”.

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