The gender role reversal is another way they are shown to be disempowered. Through their exclusion from their own Working mens club “traditionally a homosocial male enclave into which women are admitted only if related to a male member.”12 they are made to feel as women excluded from this male only arena may feel. Their choice of stripping as a way of regaining this arena and their dignity also allows them to be feminised to some extent as they are doing what women have done for years, using their bodies to gain power and influence. They are forced to consider as women do, that they will be judged on their appearance and develop fears about their appearance resorting to various extreme devices to improve their looks.
They are shown in Geralds house with his sun bed and exercise bike considering the use of anti wrinkle cream and flicking through womens magazines. This feminisation allows the economic disempowerment of men to be parallelled with that of women prior to the 1980s and the fact that the films resolution is upbeat could be seen to suggest that an adaptation in attitude needs to occur before men can again feel empowered.
This disempowerment of the male characters in the film, while linked to their loss of economic power with the closure of the factories is also shown to be about the loss of spaces where men can be men. They are offered jobs but these are either unacceptable to their sense of pride, Gaz does not want his wife as his boss or only serve to increase their sense of isolation and uselessness, as with Daves job as a security guard. What they need to regain their power is the “support and self-respect that participation in the group, and the strip-show, provides.”13
In Trainspotting the focus on male disempowerment is different rather than attempting to present it as a social problem they present this joblessness and social exclusion as “taken-for -granted states with no history, no proposed solution and no expectation of change.”14 . In Trainspotting the characters seem to be making a choice to remain jobless as they deliberately fail job interviews and channel their efforts into dole fraud and petty crime.
The male underclass is presented as a life style choice and marketed as a commodity. The young male characters in Trainspotting are already part of a group that offers them support and self esteem of a kind though it is based around pubs and drug dealers not work. Rather than trying to regain economic status they revel in their sub culture and almost seem to take pride in their position. Monk states that the film “combines the attractions of a highly marketable culture of youth dissent with the ultimate in maverick, high risk (although illegal) free enterprise.”15 as though the films male characters have rejected education and legal employment as worthless and unprofitable and merely chosen to immerse themselves in a culture of crime instead.
This demonstrates not that the men are unemployable layabouts but that they have exercised choice in abandoning these pursuits, unlike the empowered women in the film who are still slaves to a system that will never make them rich. In this way it rescues the film from a negative conclusion about male disempowerment by painting the characters not as victims but as entrepreneurial and alternative.
In conclusion both films deal with male disempowerment in different ways. While The Full Monty could be seen to effect a role reversal with the men regaining their power through an appropriation of traditionally female activities and involvement in a group. Trainspotting almost effects a denial of this disempowerment by representing the characters as making an informed lifestyle choice and rejecting the stereotypes of middle class life.
1 Monk, Claire Men in the 90s in Murphy, Robert (ed.) British Cinema of the 90s. BFI: London (2000) p156
2 Monk, Claire Men in the 90s in Murphy, Robert (ed.) British Cinema of the 90s. BFI: London (2000) p159
3 Monk, Claire Men in the 90s in Murphy, Robert (ed.) British Cinema of the 90s. BFI: London (2000) p157
4 Hill, John Failure and Utopianism: Representations of the working class in British Cinema of the 1990s in Murphy, Robert (ed.) British Cinema of the 90s. BFI: London (2000)
5 Monk, Claire Underbelly UK: The 1990s underclass film, masculinity and the ideologies of ‘new’ Britain in Ashby, Justine and Higson, Andrew (eds.) British Cinema, past and present. Routledge: London and New York (2000) p278