My project examines the changing dynamics of American masculinity as expressed in the cute performances of US soldiers that originate within the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan and are disseminated to millions of viewers through YouTube videos. In numerous remix videos, male soldiers re-stage videos by Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Carly Rae Jepsen, Katy Perry, reshaping American masculinity in the context of the war on terror. Exmining the precise rhetoric of the remix allows us to explicate their complex rhetoric.
Within the context of geopolitical, ideological and territorial disputes, these videos enact a brand of "authority cuteness" in which "those in positions of power convince those below them that they are not in fact intimidating" (Brian McVeigh 299). Soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are subject to a rigid chain of command; they are "boots on the ground" in Department of Defense parlance and are not in charge of their fate. On the other hand, they are the foot soldiers enacting and enforcing US military dominance.
One important function of these cute performances is as a response to the radical patriarchal masculnity atttributed to and in some respects claimed by the groups that are the target of US military intervention (Al Qaeda and ISIS). These "kindler and gentler" American soldiers become a double edged weapon in the war on terror, as killers and cuddly cheerleaders, deploying both hard and soft power. They modulate the dangers of male sexuality in an era in which the problem of sexual assault in the military has been recognized and rape is understood as a tool of war. The videos also assert the humanity of the male soldier body--defending it against obsolescence in a war characterized by outsourcing to private contractors and drone warfare.