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Masculinity in the Film “Saturday Night Fever”


Saturday Night Fever is a movie that revolves around a young man, Tony Manero, who acts as John Travolta. John works as a clerk at a hardware that is in the heart of the New York City. He regularly breaks his routine activities of the week on the weekends when he goes dancing with friends. The movie presents John as a fan of dance and glamour.

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The presentation is evident through the time that John spends to tidy himself up before the dance and the kind of clothes he wears when he goes to the dance clubs, which are brightly coloured. In the cast, the young man, John, takes part in a dance competition with friends like Stephanie and wins. The theme of masculinity is clear through a number of ways that include male dominance, the roles played by the genders, and the stereotypes present in the film. Therefore, it is within this context that the paper analyses the theme of masculinity in the movie Saturday Night Fever as depicted by male dominance, masculine roles, and the stereotypes.

Male Dominance

Male dominance is evident right from the beginning of the cast, and the plot. The film depicts men as smart, strong, and dominant over women. For instance, the lead actor or the starring, John Travolta, is a man, a factor that brings out the theme. Furthermore, the majority of John’s friends are men, while women receive little attention. The women, who appear as John’s girlfriends are Annette and Stephanie, who experience the plight exercised by ruthless and drunk male friends of John.

The theme is even evident by the fact John’s mother and his sister receive very little interest, but the brother, who acts as Martin Shakar, appears and dominates in the film. Jordan explains that the film is full of male actors, who take various parts and dominate over their women counterparts (117). The dominance is also evident by the number of males present in the film as opposed to the number of women. As a result, the male dominance demonstrated by the film brings out the theme of masculinity in the movie.

The lead actor, John, who is a man, dominates from the beginning to the end of the film and although he engages in a number of juvenile activities, he still appears to be spotless. Women in the film take the inferior positions as girlfriends or as customers, as is the case with John’s mother, Helen Travolta, and his sister, Ann Travolta, who acts as a pizza girl. Apparently, masculinity dominates all through the film and demonstrates men as strong, masculine, and energetic actors. According to Jordan, the film presents John as a man and when the image appears in the mirror, the film displays his muscles out of his mannish and teenage body (117). The significance awarded to the masculine gender in the film is a factor that is evident throughout the film.

Masculine Roles

Masculinity is also evident in the roles that actors in the film play. The dominance of the masculine gender is apparent from the roles that men perform in the film, which are superior to those of women, an element that appears from the beginning to the end of the movie. The lead actor is a man and executes his role successfully to a level where he wins the competitive award together with Stephanie. Although they win the award with Stephanie, she does not receive much attention as his male dance partner, John. Additionally, in the cast, John is always the lead in the dance floor singing alone and executing unique dancing styles.

Irrespective of their incredible dancing styles, the women take the form of objects for men like John, who pick them as their dance partners and drop them later after the dance. The case of Stephanie after the award clarifies the low profile that the film accords to the feminine gender. Jordan elucidates the dominance of masculinity when he explains that John became the king of dance in film (118). The fact that a number of men in the film are shown to own vehicles as opposed to women is a clear indication of gender imbalance and exposition of masculinity.

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As opposed to their male counterparts, who work in various places like John, who works as a clerk in the hardware, the movie portrays women as mere dancers without any other profession. The use of antics by women in an attempt to climb up the ladder of success is a clear indication of masculinity in the film and the value accorded to the feminine gender. The movie presents women as inferior and subject to actions that are ruthless and oppressive.

In addition, a number of women in the film take the form of homemakers as opposed to men, who have specific occupations. Jordan highlights that the movie presents John and his male friends as smart individuals, who shine in every activity that they engage in and are the masters of every venture (116). The presentation undermines women, who do not receive the attention and interest to demonstrate their dazzling performance in areas like dancing.


In the film, Saturday Night Fever, the masculine theme presents itself in the way that men behave and undertake their activities. Since the film first appeared in 1977, it uses men to demonstrate violence and battles, a major phenomenon of the time. During 1970s, the masculine gender had an association of violence and battles, and thus, the presence of violence in the film between the gang of John, the Hispanic, and barracuda gangs elaborates the stereotypes of male violence.

The movie brings to the fore the theme of masculinity, when it presents men as strong, powerful, and oppressive, while women as weak and defenceless, which is a common stereotype. When the friends of John decide to pester Annette, the superior nature of the masculine gender becomes apparent in a negative manner. In addition, when John goes to Stephanie to apologize, the film presents women as weak and submissive. Although John and his friends are guilty, they get away with atrocities without any punishment, while women suffer in silence.


The movie, Saturday Night Fever, involves a young man, John Travolta, who is 19 years old and loves fun and dancing with friends. The movie encompasses several activities that reflect masculine and feminine behaviours associated with the 1970s. Although some of the masculine behaviours like violence and oppression of the feminine gender are no longer present in the modern world, some aspects of the masculine gender are still evident in contemporary societies. The film demonstrates masculinity in a number of ways, which include male dominance, masculine roles, and stereotypes.

Furthermore, the movie demonstrates men in a manner that makes them dominant and appear superior to the feminine gender. The movie also uses roles of actors to demean the feminine gender and present the masculine gender as superior. The superiority of the masculine gender is evident through the roles that the male and female characters play in the film. In the movie, male actors play the main parts while the majority of the women act as subordinates. The stereotypes, which are present in the film, include violence, oppression, and exploitation. Thus, the theme of masculinity is present in the movie Saturday Night Fever.

Works Cited

Jordan, Chris. Movies and the Reagan Presidency: Success and Ethics. California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

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