Hollywood's America: Social and Political Themes in Motion Pictures

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Westview Press, 1996 - Performing Arts - 298 pages
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American motion pictures still dominate the world market with an impact that is difficult to measure. Their role in American culture has been a powerful one since the 1930s and is a hallmark of our culture today. Though much has been written about the film industry, there has been very little systematic attention paid to the ideology of its creative elite. How does the outlook of that elite impact on the portrayals of America that appear on the screen? How do their views interact with the demands of the market and the structure of the industry to determine the product that is seen by mass audiences?Hollywood’s America is a marvelously rich and careful discussion of these questions. It combines a meticulous systematic content analysis of fifty years of top-grossing films with a history of the changing structure of the industry. To that mixture it adds an in-depth survey of Hollywood’s creative elite, comparing them to other leadership groups. The result is a balanced discussion of unique breadth and depth on a subject of national importance.Placing the film industry in the context of American society as a whole, the authors point out that Hollywood’s creative leadership impacts the larger society even as it is influenced by that society. The creators of films cannot remove themselves too far from the values of the audiences that they serve. However, the fact that films are made by a relatively small number of people, who, as the authors demonstrate, tend to share a common outlook, means that, over time, motion pictures have had an undeniable impact on the beliefs, lifestyles, and action of Americans.This study contributes to the debate over the role and influence of those who create and distribute the products of mass culture in the United States.The book also contains a devastating critique of the poststructuralist theories that currently dominate academic film criticism, demonstrating how they fail in their attempt to explain the political significance of motion pictures.
 

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Contents

Studying Hollywood
1
Hollywoods History and the Politics of Motion Pictures
14
A Profile
40
2B Expressive Individualism Factor
59
Hollywood Views the Military
81
Crime Violence and the Police
101
Religious Decline?
120
Hollywoods Class Act
138
A New Deal for Minorities?
172
19901994
188
Hollywood and the Moviemakers
195
B The Interview Sample
251
The Movie Sample and Content Analysis
257
Number of Films by Decade Population Sample and Availability
258
References
272
About the Book and Authors
287

The Politics of Gender
153

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Page 138 - Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
Page 208 - We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together: always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.
Page 106 - ... picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin. 2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented. 3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
Page 20 - Where a high quality film greatly desired is licensed only if an inferior one is taken, the latter borrows quality from the former and strengthens its monopoly by drawing on the other. The practice tends to equalize rather than differentiate the reward for the individual copyrights. Even where all the films included in the package are of equal quality, the requirement that all be taken if one is desired increases the market for some. Each stands not on its own footing but in whole or in part on the...
Page 74 - We hear a lot of talk these days about liberals and conservatives. I'm going to show you a seven-point scale on which the political views that people might hold are arranged from extremely liberal — point 1 — to extremely conservative — point 7. Where would you place yourself on this scale?
Page 18 - They recognize their responsibility to the public because of this trust and because entertainment and art are important influences in the life of a nation. Hence, though regarding motion pictures primarily as entertainment without any explicit purpose of teaching or propaganda...
Page 230 - Nevertheless, as this article has argued, the structure of looking in narrative fiction film contains a contradiction in its own premises: the female image as a castration threat constantly endangers the unity of the diegesis and bursts through the world of illusion as an intrusive, static, onedimensional fetish.
Page 20 - ... whether a state may censor motion pictures under a clearly drawn statute designed and applied to prevent the showing of obscene films. That is a very different question from the one now before us. We hold only that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments a state may not ban a film on the basis of a censor's conclusion that it is "sacrilegious.
Page 244 - The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.
Page 20 - It is further urged that motion pictures possess a greater capacity for evil, particularly among the youth of a community, than other modes of expression. Even if one were to accept this hypothesis, it does not follow that motion pictures should be disqualified from First Amendment protection. If there be capacity for evil it may be relevant in determining the permissible scope of community control, but it does not authorize substantially unbridled censorship such as we have here.

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About the author (1996)

Stephen Powers is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College. David J. Rothman holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration on Poetics from New York University. He teaches English at Western State College of Colorado, in Gunnison, and lives with his family in nearby Crested Butte. Stanley Rothman coauthor of American Elites (1996) among numerous books, is director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change and is Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government Emeritus at Smith College. Stephen Powers is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College. David J. Rothman holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration on Poetics from New York University. He teaches English at Western State College of Colorado, in Gunnison, and lives with his family in nearby Crested Butte. Stanley Rothman coauthor of American Elites (1996) among numerous books, is director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change and is Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government Emeritus at Smith College. Stephen Powers is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College. David J. Rothman holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration on Poetics from New York University. He teaches English at Western State College of Colorado, in Gunnison, and lives with his family in nearby Crested Butte. Stanley Rothman coauthor of American Elites (1996) among numerous books, is director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change and is Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government Emeritus at Smith College.

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