Stereotypes In Buster Keaton's Silent Film The General

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In Buster Keaton’s silent film, The General (1927), Keaton plays a young man named Johnnie Gray. The film states Johnnie Gray has two loves: the attractive Anabelle Lee and his steam engine locomotive The General. Taking place during the Civil War, Johnnie Gray is forced to cross into enemy territory to save both Anabelle Lee and his steam engine, when the Northern army steals the train. Throughout the journey, the audience is greeted with the physical humor Gray’s antics and the subtle humor of the gender roles established in society. With the use of mise-en-scène and gender stereotypes, Keaton generates a humorous, entertaining film. Mise-en-scène describe the film technique of providing humor directly on screen, and Keaton heavily uses …show more content…

For example, Johnnie Gray appears as a tiny, feminine man, contrasting to the brawny, bold stereotypes of Civil War culture. Gray is not charming or dashing, instead, exuding awkwardness and foolishness throughout the film. Furthermore, when compared to Anabelle’s brother and father (typical Civil War stereotypes), Johnnie Gray exhibits cowardice and reluctance when joining the war. At the recruitment office, Keaton compares Johnnie Gray to another man. The other man displays traditional male stereotypes, as he was large, strong, and confident. Gray on the other hand is short, constantly checking the size of muscles. Contrastingly, Anabelle Lee portrays all the stereotypes of a woman during the Civil War. She’s beautiful, loves the main character of the film, and is utterly useless. Anabelle becomes captured at the beginning of the film, though Gray eventually rescues her. On their way back on The General, Anabelle almost causes Johnnie and herself to be caught twice, due to her inadequacy at operating the train. Additionally, she chooses to clean the train, while being chased, and throws away wood because it has a hole in it. Keaton use of gender roles promotes humor throughout the film, although, it also establishes the stereotypes of the era, adding a layer of

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