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Masculinity and “Cine de Cruzada”: The Crusade Against Self-Indulgence in Early Francoist Spain
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Masculinity and “Cine de Cruzada”:
The Crusade Against Self-Indulgence in Early Francoist Spain

Through state censorship as well as Franco’s direct personal participation, Spanish cinema was an extremely important cultural institution that reflected and circulated those ideas that were approved by the state and served the purposes of the dictatorship. Though it has been pointed out that the Francoist State never had an unproblematically clear nor coherent plan for the surveillance and reeducation of its citizenry (Lázaro Reboll 40), Franco recognized the ideological power of cinema. Though generally the state did not directly produce its own cinema after the war, it controlled and directed cinematic production with clear ideological goals through a system of censorship and subsidies. The Franco dictatorship recognized that the control of dangerous ideas and the promotion of desirable values could be obtained by controlling and directing the cinema. His regime attempted to exploit cinema for its purposes starting with a censorship effort even before the end of the war that developed into a full-fledged national cinema in the 1940s (Triana-Toribio 17). Franco himself penned a glorified autobiography under the pseudonym “Jaime de Andrade.” It was then passed on to director Luis Sáenz de Heredia, a “primary exponent of ‘cine cruzada’” (Stone 28) and nephew of the former dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, and released in 1941 as Raza. By rewriting history through the medium of film, the dictatorship sought to establish its origins and justify its violent government overthrow. José María Caparrós Lera asserts that: “la verdad es que sí existía un cine político: las famosas películas históricas, por [End Page 97] ejemplo, jugaban al desplazamiento temporal, esforzándose en hallar en el pasado circunstancias similares en su ejemplaridad a las que en ese momento se vivía en España” (31). The films of this movement served a proscriptive/propagandistic purpose that advanced the aims of the fledgling dictatorship and were clearly interested in promoting a particular vision of heroic masculinity.

One of the earliest coherent cinematic manifestations of the dictatorship ethos were the pseudo-historical war-themed films identified as “cine de cruzada” or crusade cinema. These films, produced and released in the early years of the dictatorship, focus on Spain as an embattled nation that needs to defend itself and preserve an essential national character which is being threatened by the infidel. By pitting good versus evil, strong versus weak, “right” versus “wrong,” these films create a fairly consistent vision of dictatorship ideology, especially its concept of heroism. Thus they can be studied as both producers and reflectors of hegemonic masculinity, or rather culturally normative ideal masculine behavior as it existed under the dictatorship. Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne define the hegemonic model as “successful ways of being a man” (3) and point out the complexity implicit in this concept, which was first used systematically by R.W. Connell in her important work Masculinities (2005). It continues to provide a productive way to talk about masculinity given that power relations prove central to its formation and maintenance. Carrigan, Connell and Lee note that the hegemonic ideal is an abstraction that serves the purposes of certain interests but that it does not actually reflect modes of behavior of the vast majority of men:

Hegemonic masculinity is far more complex than the accounts of essences in the masculinity books would suggest … It is, rather, a question of how particular groups of men inhabit positions of power and wealth and how they legitimate and reproduce the social relationships that generate their dominance. An immediate consequence of this is that the culturally exalted form of masculinity, the hegemonic model so to speak, may only correspond to the actual characters of a small number of men … Yet very large numbers of men are complicit in sustaining the hegemonic model.


Since each of the films discussed here also portrays negative, inferior and unsuccessful forms of masculinity, they reveal the tensions and conflicts that arose in the adoption and maintenance of the heroic model. Though clearly a film’s ideological effect can never be reliably calculated and viewer reception also plays a role in...