An early scene in Ransom (directed by Ron Howard in 1996) presents an image that powerfully symbolizes the masculine anxieties of both the hero and the film.1 We see Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson), the wealthy owner of an airline company, his wife, Kate (Rene Russo), and their son, Sean (Brawley Nolte) at a science fair in New York's Central Park. The boy has built an airborne device in which a video camera is attached to two helium-filled orange balloons. Using a remote unit, Sean, who looks about nine years old, controls the flight of the balloons as well as the direction of the video camera. Suddenly, kidnappers seize the boy while both parents are momentarily distracted. We then see the balloons drifting slowly out of the park. The possibility that his son has been kidnapped begins to dawn on Tom just as the balloons collide with the cornice of an apartment building. One of the balloons bursts, sending the video camera plummeting to the sidewalk. The falling camera functions as a synecdoche for the son, who has been seized while deploying that camera over the rooftops of

New York City. With its two large circular balloons, the contraption is also a metaphor for Tom's prominent but threatened masculinity: his "balls."