Military propaganda was not new to the United States at the onset of the Second World War, but it did grow vastly in volume and turn to emerging forms of expression and media throughout the war and the early Cold War. New productions by the federal government sought to engage and entertain the public, while also providing information. The federal government began responding to popular forms of media including Hollywood-style film and comic books, which were widely popular in newspapers across the US. These pieces often told stories about civilians in their domestic lives, as well as soldiers in the field of battle. Taken together, the corpus of entertainment media reflects the military's idealized American culture, and exposes the behaviors, customs, identities, and lifestyles celebrated and discouraged by the American military.
The Military-Masculinity Complex: Hegemonic Masculinity and the United States Armed Forces aims to examine the ways in which the military-industrial complex, in a time of previously unprecedented growth and power, reflected and rewarded certain male archetypes. To do this, I offer a close reading of a number of different print resources, and organiz my analysis around the four pillars of masculinity established by Deborah David and Richard Brannon: Adventurousness and Aggressiveness, Antifemininity, Being a "Bigwheel", and by being a Sturdy Oak. By drawing heavily upon powerful cultural markers of masculinity, the military could assuage doubts about its policies and practices, while also reifing and substantiating the existing power dynamics that favored white, heterosexual, middle-class masculinity over other values and identities.
I designed this project with the understanding that every reader has a different knowledge base and is seeking different things. Readers are encouraged to freely explore and navigate to where their own interests lie, using the top navigation as their "map." The Introduction lays out my central argument and provides some background. Hegemonic Masculinity parses through the established theory of hegemonic masculinity, and explores the way this power structure impacts the military materials and the men and women in the target audience. American Manhood provides historical context for this time period, and explores different views of the gender dynamics of the era. The Military-Masculinity tab serves as a portal to the crux of my argument, and the four aforementioned pillars of masculinity as they are depicted in the texts. The Sources page serves as a bibliography, and also offers the full versions of the primary texts I've engaged. The About section offers more information about this project. Most of the pages will also have a pop-out panel along the left side, which explores the connections the page has with other parts of my argument, as well as the primary and secondary sources.
Brandon T. Locke | MA Student | University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of History
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.