The accented cinema of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gergely, Gabor (2016) The accented cinema of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In: BAFTSS Annual Conference, 14-16 April 2016, Reading University.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal trajectory - his career as a film star bookending a successful, but curiously also failed political career – mirrors his characters’ constant struggle to overcome opposition in a quest to become fully American. The often-parodied accent marks Schwarzenegger as always and irrevocably foreign, and, crucially, reminds us (and him) of his one failure as a body builder: to remodel his speech organs, which continue to mark him as immutably foreign.
This paper builds on my earlier work on exile and émigré film actors in Classical Hollywood to bring a fresh look at Schwarzenegger’s work. It shows how a discourse of foreignness – via the constant reiteration of the superhuman quality of his physique and his unchanging German accent – dislocates the star body from the national, and thus builds the nation through his exclusion from the realm of the normative. The paper argues that Schwarzenegger’s roles can be read alongside Naficy’s Accented Cinema to unpack a transnational dynamic: the narrative of exile, dislocation and the drive to graft oneself into the host nation. A theory of exile and diasporic cinema, as applied to Hollywood, is used to show that despite all claims of victory in films and politics, Schwarzenegger’s body remains foreign and beyond the normative on screen and off.
Naficy’s concept of the accent is combined with body theory, in particular Butler’s work on the immateriality of the feminine body in heteronormative discourse to interrogate the typical reading – in star studies devoted to him – of the Schwarzenegger body as hypermasculine. The concept of the posthuman is used to show how Schwarzenegger’s body is placed beyond the human realm through machinic embodiment, and doubling.

Keywords:Hollywood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Film Stardom, Foreignness, Accent
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:29922
Deposited On:06 Dec 2017 12:30

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