“How Do You Love Your Family and Leave Them to Go to War?”
This concluding chapter interrogates the presumed eradication of deep-seated anxieties identified throughout the book about the failings of males in “protective” roles in recent Hollywood film. The chapter focuses on the jingoistic 12 Strong (2018), which recounts the story of the first Special Forces team deployed into Afghanistan following 9/11. The film restages both America’s initial military response to the originary terror attacks and of reassuring “male action” subgenres—from the cavalry western to the WWII combat film—to erase the gendered sense of failure of 9/11 and the irresolution of the “war on terror.” The film’s coda showcases the supposedly triumphant return of soldier-father heroes, paragons of idealized American masculinity, to the home. However, the chapter finds that gendered anxieties about “protective” failings persist through multiple genre and narrative incoherences, which invert the “hero’s homecoming” and reiterate just how pervasive and enduring “gender trouble” remains in American film post-9/11.
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