The ultimate ride : Point Break, surfing cinema, and masculine transcendence
When Point Break was released in 1991, critics were unsure whether it was serious or satirical, whether it was a dumb action film or a mockery of dumb action films. Almost thirty years later, it would be reconsidered and dubbed "the greatest female-gaze action movie ever,” and conversations around the film’s portrayal of gender, bodies, and sexuality is ongoing. In my thesis, I will address Point Break’s treatment of gender by considering it not within a pantheon of action films but instead as part of a lineage of independently produced surf movies. Point Break performs a Lacanian mimicry of the mid-century surf documentary, drawing on its aesthetics and ideologies and transforming them slightly in its own articulation. Most significantly, Point Break challenges the surf documentary trope of masculine mysticism and the transcendent potential of surfing; by turning the camera’s objectifying gaze on male and female characters alike, Point Break subtly subverts the male gaze and challenges audience expectations of gendered character arcs and masculine transcendence.
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