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Descended from Hercules : Biopolitics and the Muscled Male Body on Screen (Hardcover) (Robert A.
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This book explores the tawdry and ****** peplum film: low-budget adventures set in mythological antiquity starring conspicuously muscled men. Though primarily associated with Italian cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, Robert Rushing traces these "sword and sandal" films from the early silent era, with the likes of Maciste in Cabiria, to their contemporary transnational form with figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian and films like Zach Snyder’s 300. For Rushing, these films represent a century-long cinematic biopolitical intervention that offers the spectator an imagined form of the male body—one free of illness, degeneracy, and the burdens of poverty—that defends goodness with brute strength and perseverance, and serves as a model of ideal citizenry. Using cinematic techniques like slow motion and stopped time, these films imbue the hero’s vitality with timelessness and admiration and they immerse the hero’s body in a world that is lavishly eroticized, but from which the question of sexual desire is removed. Rushing explores how the very tactile modes of representation—the sense of muscle and viscera, sweat and skin—cement the genre’s ideological grip on the viewer.