Undoing violent masculinity: Lynne Ramsay’s You were never really here (2018)

Thornham, Sue (2020) Undoing violent masculinity: Lynne Ramsay’s You were never really here (2018). Feminist Media Studies. ISSN 1468-0777

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Reviewers described Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (2018) as a “Taxi Driver for a new century.” Certainly, its narrative of an inarticulate killer who is also the would-be saviour of a lost and damaged “little white girl” recalls that of Scorsese’s 1976 film., and the two films share a fragmented, hallucinatory quality. Yet what such comparisons miss is both the devastating critique of this culturally powerful narrative to be found in Ramsay’s film, and the connections it makes between this paradigmatic story of a failed and violent but ultimately sympathetic white masculinity and another: that of the traumatising mother who is responsible for the violence of her psychotic son. In this article, I explore the nature of Ramsay’s critique, arguing that her film both refuses and interrogates both of these readings of gender. Ramsay’s protagonist, like Scorsese’s, is a traumatised war veteran, but his identification is not with a fantasised and recuperative ideal masculinity but with its feminised victims: girl and mother. His tragedy is not that he fails in his rescue attempt, or that he is in thrall to the “death mother”, but that he believes that the means of this rescue might be masculinity.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 22 May 2020 06:56
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 02:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/91348

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