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Side-Splitting: Humour and National Identity in Contemporary Spanish Cinema (1970-2020)

HILBORN, MATTHEW,DAVID,KYTE (2022) Side-Splitting: Humour and National Identity in Contemporary Spanish Cinema (1970-2020). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis, Matthew Hilborn) - Accepted Version


Through close-readings of sagas, moments, and movements in Spanish film comedy across the past half-century (1970-2020), this thesis investigates how overtly “national” humour, explicitly depicting homeland idiosyncrasies and deficiencies, variously mirrors, shapes, mollifies and intensifies sociopolitical anxieties in Spain’s ongoing transitions from dictatorship to democracy. Problematising the very notion of ‘nation(al)’ in case-studies from Luis García Berlanga, Juan Antonio Bardem (1970-1977), ‘early’ Pedro Almodóvar (1980-1984), Bigas Luna (the ‘Iberian Trilogy’, 1992-1994), Álex de la Iglesia (Muertos de risa/Dying of Laughter, 1999), Santiago Segura (Torrente, 1998-2014), Emilio Martínez-Lázaro (the Apellidos/’Spanish Affair’ saga, 2014-15), and Javier Ruiz Caldera (Superlópez, 2018), it scrutinises the widespread supposition of a characteristically Spanish – or self-consciously, self-mockingly “Spanish” – humour, reconfigured and hyperbolised both domestically and for international spectators, fabricating the mutable ‘Spanish look’. Unveiling how Spain sniggers as vital anthropological clue, seven chapters cover comedy’s response to pivotal historical moments, including late-Francoism, desarrollismo, Transition desencanto, Movida, Spain’s entry into Europe, clashes between 2000s Aznarismo (centralised, castizo ‘Spanishness’) and mounting immigration, post-ETA trauma, separatist anxieties, and party-political fragmentation (e.g. the expansion of far-right Vox). Analysing visual gags through advanced Humour Theory, problematising genre, self-image, historical memory, and nation-branding, I connect questions of cultural identity to evolving comedic styles (sex-comedy, corpse-comedy, road-movies, parody, pastiche, clowns, irony, ‘simulacra slapstick’, romantic comedy, superhero spoofs, and coinages ‘comic-kazi counterhumour’ and ‘premature ejokulation’) that sprout during different sociopolitical eras. This reveals wider geopolitical concerns with gender norms, family models, and democratic consolidation, interrogating which relations of power, offence, and violence both license and emerge from humour. Transitioning out of Franco, national film comedy emerged as a vibrant, fecund, conflictual and resistant discourse, a vernacular through which models of ‘home’, citizenship, patriotism, heroism, and masculinities were (re)imagined and (re)enacted. Mirroring and moulding civic change through varied laughingstocks, film comedy ultimately broadened conceptualisations of modern-day ‘Spanishness’.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Spanish comedy; Spanish humour; national comedy; Santiago Segura; Bigas Luna; film franchise
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Mar 2022 13:50

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