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Soft stardom, melodrama and the critique of epic masculinity in Ben-Hur (2016)

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 masculinity.

in The Bible onscreen in the new millennium