North Dallas Forty

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A 1979 film adapting Peter Gent's novel, in which he drew upon his own experience as a professional football player for the Dallas Cowboys. The film's chief character, Phillip Elliott, is ageing and reliant upon painkillers to keep his ailing body going. The film evokes the hedonism of the male football culture, the brutish demeanour of the coach, and the desperation behind the fragile status of the sporting superstar. Garry Whannel has summarized the ‘grotesque world’ of the culture of ‘gridiron masculinity’ evoked in the film, listing its components: the close relationship of power and violence; the robotic nature of the players' lives, in that they are treated as automata; the interplay of Christian morality and the work ethic; the role of sex as a substitute for human relationships; and pain as ‘confirmation of a job well done’ (‘No Room for Uncertainty: Gridiron Masculinity in North Dallas Forty’, in Pat Kirkham and Janet Thumim, eds, You Tarzan: Masculinities, Movies and Men, 1993).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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