Science Fiction Film & Television

Stephen King’s IT and Dreamcatcher on screen: hegemonic white masculinity and nostalgia for underdog boyhood

Science Fiction Film & Television (2017), 10, (2), 161–176.

Abstract

In the novels of Stephen King, as well as their screen adaptations, the depiction of child protagonists commingles fear, wonder and nostalgia, especially nostalgia for being the odd person (usually man) out, the loser or ‘nerd’ in its older, less positive sense. So often in King, the outcast boy who reads and writes speculative stories becomes the voice of the tale, a substitute for King himself, and an example of a certain kind of heroic male – the sensitive underdog who will eventually conquer the bully/monster and/or ‘get’ the girl. While this heroic underdog character is in some ways a challenge to traditional concepts of hegemonic masculinity, the challenge is incomplete, in that he remains white, straight and able-bodied. King’s novels IT and Dreamcatcher present us with white male underdog characters who assume hegemonic masculinity by standing up to bullies, and through acts of kindness and the use of their intelligence. At the same time, these novels – as well as the television miniseries of IT and the feature film Dreamcatcher – achieve hegemonic status for their underdog heroes at least in part through the marginalisation of female characters, black characters, gay characters and characters with disabilities. This article will discuss how IT, Dreamcatcher and their respective adaptations both critique and reinforce hegemonic masculinity.

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Hansen, Regina