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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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date: 03 June 2020

Kissed by the Muse of Roller-Disco: Utopia versus the Golden Ages of America, Hollywood, and Classical Myth in Xanadu (1980)

Kissed by the Muse of Roller-Disco: Utopia versus the Golden Ages of America, Hollywood, and Classical Myth in Xanadu (1980)

Chapter:
(p.44) 2 Kissed by the Muse of Roller-Disco: Utopia versus the Golden Ages of America, Hollywood, and Classical Myth in Xanadu (1980)
Source:
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition
Author(s):

Meredith E. Safran

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.003.0003

The second chapter on refractions of the golden age of heroes examines the roller-disco cult classic Xanadu (1980), in which the kiss of a Muse inspires a frustrated commercial artist to save America from its late-1970s “iron age” by rejecting his corporate job and founding a socially inclusive nightclub. Safran explores how this project’s utopian potential becomes subsumed by contemporary nostalgia for America’s post-World War II prosperity and the “golden age” of the Hollywood studio system, signalled by quoting the filmography of Xanadu’s venerable co-star Gene Kelly. His particular brand of on-screen masculinity echoes ancient homosociality associated with the Hesiodic all-male golden age, the end of which is associated with the invention of women—much as Xanadu’s homosocial mentoring relationship is disrupted by the Muse. The young protagonist’s impossible romance with the goddess risks degrading his masculinity in light of her divinity, until the film refigures her as a prisoner of the divine realm and him as modern Orpheus who breaks into that realm to plead for his beloved’s return. His success not only bests his classical model but also recuperates him as a man, an artist, and a self-employed small business owner.

Keywords:   Xanadu, homosociality, Gene Kelly, kissed by a Muse, golden age of Hollywood, nostalgia, utopia, masculinity, Orpheus, golden age of heroes

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