Making 'Mr. Hockey': Race, Gender, Class, and Nation in Media Representations of Gordie Howe
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In this dissertation I study media representations of Gordie Howe, also known as ‘Mr. Hockey,’ who has been an idealized image of a hockey player and a ‘true’ Canadian during the Canadian postwar era. By taking Howe as my subject of research, I investigate the cultural meanings of white hockey playing men and their connection to Canadian national identity. My primary research question is: What can we learn about white masculinity and its persistent centrality to Canadian national identity by looking at cultural representations of Gordie Howe? To address this question, I conducted a discourse analysis of media representations of Howe during his playing career (1946-1980) in order to understand the raced, gendered, and classed processes that perpetually exalt white men like Howe as symbols of a dominant, Anglo Canadian identity. My central argument is that Gordie Howe’s image reproduced discourses of nation, class, gender, and race that positioned white, Anglo Canadian men as naturally ‘civilized’ and superior to women and non-Anglo and/or racialized men, and that his image, therefore, contributed to discursive formations in which white, Anglo masculinity was central to dominant, Anglo Canadian identity in the postwar era. Ultimately, this dissertation demonstrates that it is not ‘natural’ or inevitable that white male hockey players like Howe, Wayne Gretzky, and Sidney Crosby continually emerge as powerful representations of dominant, Anglo Canadianness, but that they are products of broader processes of colonialism, patriarchy, racialization and capitalism that have and continue to reproduce hockey players as ‘heroes’ whose whiteness and maleness makes them somehow more Canadian than people who are represented through ‘other’ categories of identity.