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Beckham as a historical moment in the representation of masculinity

Rahman, Momin (2004) Beckham as a historical moment in the representation of masculinity. Labour History Review, 69 (2). pp. 219-233. ISSN 0961-5652

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Abstract

There can be no doubt that David Beckham is a public figure of intense media interest in contemporary Britain. This paper is the first stage in a project which aims to explore the circuit of representation and reception of Beckham in current culture. I use a grounded theory approach to generate and categorise the ways in which representations are constructed. The empirical focus is on the discourses around Beckham which are apparent in magazines from May to October 2002. This six month period covers some extremely significant events in his private and professional lives; from his injury just before the World Cup; his recovery and subsequent captaincy of England during the tournament; his on-going fashion and celebrity career with consecutive cover spreads for major magazines, to the arrival of Romeo - his second child. As such, this time-span provided ample and diverse examples of how he is represented in this particular form of lifestyle media. The conceptual categories generated through the grounded theory approach are analysed using ideas drawn from queer theory. My aim is to explore whether queer ideas of discursive resistance, disruption, or destabilisation, are useful explanatory frameworks when discussing the modes of representation which are deployed to construct David Beckham as a working class heterosexual subject. I suggest that queer theory does allow an appreciation of new elements being coded into working-class masculinity. However, current changes in the representation of masculinity may be more usefully understood as expansions of the 'sign' of masculinity operating as a commodity form.