In this chapter, I argue that the 2016 Ben-Hur uses the template of
its earlier iterations in conjunction with its reliance on a gentler type of
epic heroic star to explore a new understanding of Christian masculinity.
Gone is the hardness and inflexibility of Heston and Boyd, replaced with a
softer, more beautiful Judah and a far more emotively rich Messala. Thus,
this iteration of the story of the Jewish prince who learns Christian grace
and forgiveness is a critique not just of its 1959 predecessor but also of
the millennial cycle of epic films – Gladiator, Troy, 300 – and their
attendant hard-bodied heroes. Rather than relying on a sort of Cold War/War
on Terror brutal masculinity, this new Ben-Hur argues for a full
embrace of an emotional, almost sentimental, form of Christian
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers memory as a specific framework for the study of popular film, intervening in growing debates about the status and function of memory in cultural life and discourse. It examines the relationship between official and popular history and the constitution of memory narratives in and around the production and consumption of American cinema. The book explores the political stakes of cinematic discourse in its production of national memory. It also examines the discursive and institutional apparatus that has come to support the memory of Classic Hollywood in British cultural life. The book also considers both the presence of music and colour in nostalgia films of the 1990s and the impact of digital and video technologies on the representational determinants of mediated memory.