The middle-aged male worker, bridling at the demands of the contemporary workplace has become a recurrent character type in recent French feature films and novels. Often, this male protagonist’s problems at work are mirrored by his difficulties at home retaining his authority as a paterfamilias. These films and novels hence offer a proliferation of narratives featuring middle-aged men struggling to modulate their professional identities and masculine roles in accordance with the demands of the contemporary workplace. As such, these narratives may also reflect the centrality of the male breadwinner and the patriarchal nuclear family to the French social model and hence may represent a series of conservative responses to perceived crises of masculinity and the nuclear family. The chapter shows that this kind of conservative response is epitomised by the novels of Houellebecq, in which laments at the loss of patriarchy are articulated to a critique of contemporary forms of immaterial labour in a particularly insistent fashion. The chapter then turns to a selection of films and novels that offer more nuanced representations of middle-aged male workers and their difficulties with work and family.
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