THE RIGHT STUFF: From Western to melodrama and comedy

Author(s): Staat, Wim


THE RIGHT STUFF (1983), directed by Philip Kaufman, has explored which genre conventions were appropriate for space travel. The film first uses the Hollywood Western, as has been acknowledged by several authors. However, the film also uses other genres, particularly melodrama and comedy as described by Stanley Cavell. In general, film genres help us understand the world. More specifically, the Hollywood Western is the film’s point of departure for its depiction of the astronaut’s immediate predecessor – the test pilot; yet it is the family melodrama and the comedy that should be acknowledged as more important for understanding the astronaut as the test pilot’s successor. To be precise, understanding the history of space travel in terms of Hollywood genres requires an examination of the way in which THE RIGHT STUFF has marked the transition from a covert, military operation (test pilots) to a civilian public relations project (astronauts) as the succession of the Western by the family melodrama and the comedy of remarriage.

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Staat, Wim: THE RIGHT STUFF: From Western to melodrama and comedy. In: NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies, Jg. 5 (2016), Nr. 1, S. 77-93. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/3348.
 author = {Staat, Wim},
 title = {THE RIGHT STUFF: From Western to melodrama and comedy},
 year = 2016,
 doi = {10.25969/mediarep/3348},
 volume = 5,
 address = {Amsterdam},
 journal = {NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies},
 number = 1,
 pages = {77--93},
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