James C. Taylor
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Configurations of man, monster and hero in The Incredible Hulk
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This chapter examines the interplay between David Banner (Bill Bixby) and his alter ego the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) in The Incredible Hulk (1977–82). While David is presented as an everyman in pursuit of a stable life and the Hulk a monstrous force, thus aligning David with the everyday and the Hulk with figures from epic literature, the chapter dismantles this apparent binary. The analysis maps the situation of David and the Hulk in relation to heroic mythologies, both classical and national, and the ways in which these are negotiated though ritual and variation. The Incredible Hulk’s episodic series structure is identified as a significant means through which everyday routine and epic adventures interact. Tropes that recur in each episode offer ritualistic pleasures but also sites where, through modification in how they play out, intersections between David and Hulk are traced. The chapter’s close analysis focuses on two structuring tropes of the show’s formula: the Hulk’s rampages in which the green Goliath showcases his bodybuilder physique that connotes heroes of epic literature, and the lonely David walking off into the distance at an episode’s end, evoking the Westerner of American frontier mythology. The instances of these tropes that are analysed – one of Hulk’s rampages in ‘Homecoming’ and David walking away at the end of ‘Nine Hours’– facilitate exploration of how the show negotiates ideas of masculinity, monstrosity and heroism while reflecting on the value and possibility of a stable everyday existence.

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Epic / everyday

Moments in television


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