Gender in the Golden 80s

Golden Ages: Styles and Personalities, Genres and Histories
The 2014 Film & History Conference

The 1980s is its own “golden age” of film when considering the idea/ls of gender contained within its borders. The era indulged representations of high-testosterone masculinity (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis) and vulnerable femininity (such as Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy). And, while films of the decade were also capable of imagining men who were strong and sensitive (like Eric Stoltz in Some Kind of Wonderful, Rob Lowe in About Last Night, and Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club), there were far fewer roles for women that broke from stereotypically feminized characterizations (like Linda Hamilton in Terminator, Lea Thompson in Back to the Future, and Demi Moore in St. Elmo’s Fire).

What can an examination of gender roles in the films of the 1980s tell us about a decade that was fraught with a crisis of identity, simultaneously proud and insecure (The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, Less Than Zero), strong and vulnerable (War Games, Red Dawn) real and imagined (Robocop, Predator)? How might we interrogate gender in American films of the 1980s, in order to better understand the ironies and anxieties contained within them?

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to the following topics as embodied in 1980s films:

Proposals for individual papers should include a 200-word abstract and the name, affiliation, and contact email of the presenter. Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Please e-mail your 200-word proposal by 1 June 2014, to the area chair:

Laura D’Amore
Roger Williams University

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