In order to understand modern Greece, we must begin with the history which shaped modern Greece. Beginning in 2007, Greece was struck by a financial crisis. This severely altered the way in which society in Greece managed everyday life, especially so regarding familial relationships. In 2007, the unemployment rate in Greece was at 27%, putting a strain on households across the country. It became more important for individuals to be working if given the opportunity in order to support their families through the tough times. Families also relied heavily on the men of the household, as the wage gap was at a high of 22% in 2009. This led to men having all around advantages, which allowed them to quickly outnumber women by far in the working field. As one can understand, this created a divide between genders and led to the man having authority and everyone else in the household being below him.
Further down the line, this led to the creation of films reflecting these struggles. In Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, it is stated that, “In order to produce films attractive to the masses, the filmmakers try to present characters and settings which were somewhat familiar to the national… audiences,”(Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, 102). As stated, referencing a national event that everyone has dealt with can be a huge way to have a film gain traction. Similar to US films referencing The Great Depression, Greek films have begun to reflect the events of the financial crisis. More commonly, they address effects of the crisis on the people. The trends of patriarchy through the representations of masculinity and honor, power relations among married couples, and patriarchal dynamics in modern Greek films are trying to prove the shift in modern culture from a patriarchal society to equality among all post financial crisis.
The dynamics of masculinity and patriarchy in household can cause strain on relationships. While men feel stressed because they feel the need to keep up their honor, women feel trapped and as though they are not contributing. In 2009 (post financial crisis), there was 79% male labor participation with women having only 57% labor participation. This continued the cycle of the men providing for the family, putting a strain on his timi and the family. The film Her Job deals with the economic pressure on a family when the only man of the household loses his job that was supporting them. The stereotypical gender roles of the household are shifted in order for the family to get back on their feet. As previously mentioned, the man is typically the economic support of the family, so his ego is tested when she becomes the financial support. This dynamic challenges the Greek reality. By publishing this film in 2018, it tests the notion of Greek masculinity.
In Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, this author addresses this issue by saying “..the values of manliness shared the same orientation: to guard the virtue of women and the honour of the house in both economic and moral terms” (Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, 12). While this dynamic is never stated in families, it is an unspoken law. This film shows an accurate depiction of the challenges of the typical Greek family, especially in the crisis, showing just how much of a strain it can have on the family. It displays this in a way that shows the women’s struggle to power in her own household, and the want to overcome it.
The Greeks have always had a sense in honor for what it means to them to live. In their case, the term philotimo has played a large role in their society. Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema defined this term as, “The constant ambition of a man to keep his timi [honor] or augment it through the respect and admiration of the community” (12). As stated, this term is mainly aimed at men. Referring to the financial crisis as earlier mentioned, this put a huge strain on the man of the household to provide for his family. Further in Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, this point is emphasized saying man’s value is, “…to guard the virtue of women and the honour of the house in both economic and moral terms” (Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema, 12). While this dynamic is never stated in families, it is an unspoken law. Once taught to their children, the cycle continues and it can be hard to escape. This masculine identity of strength and authority is commonly referred to in films. It is often implied that men need to be seen more, and women need to be seen less. "Masculinity" often points out what females lack in comparison to men.
In this new trend of films, however, we see a shift in what it means to be masculine. For example, in the above scene from the film In This Land Nobody Knew How To Cry, we see a man sporting a mustache holding a gun. At first glance, this seems like a vision of the past. However, in the scene, it is in fact the Greek woman teaching the European man to use a gun. This scene challenges the dynamic of usual Greek power relations between a man and a woman. By taking something stereotypically masculine like a gun and putting it in the hands of the woman, the audience sees the power in the woman’s hands. This is trying to prove that women in relationships have just as much power as men, despite the stereotypes of the past. As a woman myself, this makes me feel empowered and I believe that is the message to take from this film. While the with the philotimo definition of the past the man would be in control to protect his timi by holding the gun, the woman is performing the ‘masculine’ act. This allows us as women to see that we are not forced into a corner, and inspiring them in the modern day.
Ancient Greece was a Patriarchal society, and focused most authority and power in the male. Patriarchy is defined in the dictionary as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it”. Ingrained into society from the start, I believe that it is a cycle that is difficult to get out of. With modern films coming out, it seems as though the Greeks are challenging these rules. In the short film, Flickering Souls Set Alight, a woman is taking care of her sick husband while dealing with ongoing support of her daughter. The man rarely even moves in this film, but it is apparent the power dynamic of their relationship. In a patriarchal society, it is seen as the man’s job to provide for the family, which is apparent even in this film. For example, the daughter gets money from her father even when he is bed ridden and cannot move or understand what she is doing. The idea that the man is the head of the household is so ingrained in the society that even when he physically is doing nothing, he is still ‘providing’ for his family. This dynamic is immediately shut down at the end when the women shuts off the power of the household. I believe this is a symbol for shutting off the patriarchy and taking control over her own life. Visually, this is shocking for an audience to see. However, she is making the bold move to protect her family and do what is right for her. In that sense, she is straying away from the typical dynamic in a Greek household.
Another film in which we see this power hierarchy is in Pause. In Pause, we see the husband’s authority over his family. He states, “Only I know what it’s like to work hard under the sun all day so that my wife and daughter can have a good life”, trying to prove his masculinity. It seems as though is his only honor to be the one protecting his family. Pause rejects this notion by making this dynamic the woman fighting to be her own individual. This is important to publish in this modern society because women must know that they have a voice. For women, this is frustrating to watch a relationship of such a power dynamic as this. It is one thing to read it on paper, but when you see it, it makes you realize that it is unaccpetable, and that this exact situation happens all the time. It not only inspires modern women but leads them to believe that they can make a change in their own lives.
By presenting the issues of masculinity and honor, power relations among married couples, and patriarchal dynamics in modern films, audiences are able to visually recognize the underlying issues of Greek society. In films, we have the innate ability to be able to humanize problems through a screen. By doing so, it changes the nature by which we are feeling the issues and makes us want to change it. Although not completely abolished, these original dynamics have moved towards a more equal power relationship. While masculinity has typically been a problem in the past, we can visually see through these films that women are capable of making a change in their relationships. For a long time, people did not want to see the reality of this dynamic or believe it for that matter. But by putting out these films and creating a sense of unrest for the audience, people are able to see just how bad and outdated this issue is in our modern culture.