A View of The Character of Sam Shakusky as Depicted in Wes Anderson’s Film, Moonrise Kingdom

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Words: 1263 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

Words: 1263|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

Sam Shakusky – The Challenger of Hegemony

Gender in Hollywood is based on the contrived actions of men saving their damsel-in-distress female counterparts. Male foci in film assume the role of emotionless individuals who strive only to outperform their male competition and sexually objectify women, while lacking any emotional intelligence (Bird 143). In film this is portrayed in overwhelming ways because it perpetuates the concepts of male hegemony, manhood acts and how boys should behave in order to become men (Schrock and Schwalbe, 162). These portrayals have created a standard in film and society that stimulates scrutiny if the stringent criteria are not met. However, in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, there is a challenge to these criteria, the focus’ manhood acts are portrayed in a different light than that of other films, which makes this film important to American cinema. To the film’s focus, his masculinity is not hegemonic, and it is not perpetuated by audacious manhood acts; rather, it is nobility. Sam Shakusky, the focus of the film, embodies masculine nobility and challenges hegemonic masculinity because he is emotional, respectful, and refuses to succumb to the almost cartoonish and contrasting attempts at manhood acts that others in film make, making his character important to the identity of masculinity in modern film culture.

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Sam Shakusky’s noble masculinity first stems from his emotions. As an ignored orphan who has no true home in the film, Sam has no source to draw an idea of masculinity from. His neglect pushes him to behave unlike other men in the film, as he has little respect for many of them. In the article Men, Masculinity and Manhood Acts by Douglas Schrock and Michael Schwalbe, it is noted that the differentiation in terms of masculinity begins during boyhood. During Sam’s boyhood, which is outlined in the scene illustrating he and Suzy’s letters, it is made apparent that both peers and adult figures in his life ignored him. Ignoring him lead him to become more of an emotional boy, rather than playing and competing in large groups, he was secluded, allowing him to focus on painting rather than learn behaviors from the boys around him. Through this he becomes a more emotional boy, and his masculinity takes form. Though, by traditional definition, his lack of other male companions growing up would retract from his masculinity, but for Sam it heightened his possession of self, an important aspect to masculinity. Possession of self references one’s physical and behavioral attributes that are to be upheld. Sam’s consistent behaviors contribute to his emotions, therefore making his emotions a major facet of his masculinity.

His interactions with Suzy also prove that he is masculine, and his masculinity is noble. Sam’s emotional investment in Suzy is much different than any of the other men in film. As mentioned before, men must have a possession of self, which is also extended into their own personal wants (Schrock and Schwalbe 155). When Sam sees Suzy, he immediately realizes his feelings for her, which is a want. He sees her on stage during a play and is immediately attracted to her. Upon that, he sneaks his way backstage to speak with her personally. His pursuing of Suzy is important because it proves his wants for Suzy, but also shows his acceptance of masculine behavior within the social structure of gender. He takes initiative, which is masculine, but he approaches it in a sensitive, kind manner, which is different from traditional masculinity. Rather than acting out and trying something heroic to attract her, he approaches her, showing his thoughtfulness and emotional intelligence, as well as his respect for women. This is important to film because his open emotional investments, which contrast mainstream masculinity in film, still allow him to be a masculine figure because they reflect his personal wants.

Sam’s respect for women is another major aspect of his masculinity. Sam’s respect for Suzy is shown in many ways, the first being his teamwork with her in an equal power relationship. In Barbara J. Risman’s Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism, she argues that based on the context of a relationship, gender roles change, and that those changes are detrimental to strides towards gender equality. However, in Sam’s case, regardless of the title of his relationship with Suzy, he is willing to work with her in running away. Rather than completely take control of their scenario while moving through the woods, he relies on Suzy to equally contribute. This is especially apparent during the scene where they are cornered by the traditionally masculine Khaki Scouts who are trying to capture Sam and Suzy to prove that they are, “man enough”. In this scene, Suzy saves Sam, and rather than become upset that he was not in charge of the situation, Sam is appreciative of Suzy’s actions. His equal power relationship with Suzy shows that he is comfortable and modest with his masculinity, and does not have to assert himself to prove he is masculine, unlike the Khaki Scouts, his peers.

The Khaki Scouts, throughout the film, are constantly trying to assert their male dominance upon Sam and Suzy, contrasting Sam’s noble and humble masculinity. When appointed by the police to aide in the finding of Sam and Suzy, the Khaki Scouts assume the roles of all-powerful men, although they are just boys. This behavior supports Schrock and Schwalbe’s argument that many young men play in large groups and try to emulate masculine figures that they admire during their development. The Khaki Scouts’ contrasting attempts to be masculine prove that they are still developing their masculinity, while Sam has accepted his. Their lack of possession of self, shown by their constant attempts to reinforce their masculinity, contrasted by Sam’s personal comfort shows that he is a much more masculine figure. His comfort dominates the Khaki Scouts, although they are trying much harder to be a dominating force. The contrast of Sam’s humble and noble masculinity, compared to the Khaki Scouts’ overwhelming efforts to be hegemonic in their masculinity show the flaws within traditional masculinity in film. In traditional masculinity in film, the males are constantly seeking competition with other men, which is an unrealistic assumption in culture, because intrinsic goals often differ.

The aforementioned traditional masculinity in film is a common thread that has not been altered drastically throughout the history of film. There are problems with this, because, not only does it create unrealistic perceptions of men and masculinity, but it also creates serious gender equality issues. Moonrise Kingdom, however, is an important film because Sam Shakusky is an embodiment of what masculinity should be in film. His modesty and respect even with his social adversities are admirable, a trait that is seen within masculinity, but not in this light. Male focuses are often admirable because of their heroic actions, not modest behavior. Sam’s role is important because of its contrasting of societal implications of masculinity.

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Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, focuses on masculinity portrayed in different ways than that of other films, making it an important film to American cinema and the definition of masculinity. In the film, masculinity is not hegemonic, like that of traditional films, and masculinity is not based upon absurd manhood acts; rather, it is based on modesty and nobility. Moonrise Kingdom’s importance within American filmmaking lies in its depiction of masculinity, showing that ‘lower status manhood’ is to be revered much like hegemonic masculinity. The film questions Douglas Schrock and Michael Schwalbe’s arguments regarding hegemonic masculinity and manhood acts through the focus, Sam Shakusky.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A View of the Character of Sam Shakusky as Depicted in Wes Anderson’s Film, Moonrise Kingdom. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
“A View of the Character of Sam Shakusky as Depicted in Wes Anderson’s Film, Moonrise Kingdom.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
A View of the Character of Sam Shakusky as Depicted in Wes Anderson’s Film, Moonrise Kingdom. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
A View of the Character of Sam Shakusky as Depicted in Wes Anderson’s Film, Moonrise Kingdom [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 03 [cited 2024 Jun 24]. Available from:
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