My aim in writing a second edition of American Film and Society since 1945 was to revise, expand, and update the original edition, which was first published in 1984. I took on this project alone, since my collaborator, Albert Auster, had other commitments.
This second edition basically adheres to the structure and critical premises of the original. However, I have made numerous stylistic changes, explored in greater depth the contested meanings and directorial style of a number of films, and dealt critically with films like Woody Allen's Manhattan and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver that were inadvertently left out of the first edition.
The most significant change was the updating of the book to include a complete chapter on the 1980s, concluding with 1989 films such as Field of Dreams and Born on the Fourth of July. The chapter explores the diverse ways in which Hollywood film in the eighties responded to Reaganite politics and the aggressively materialistic ethos that it ushered in. There is no single political and cultural current that films of the eighties evoke. The films analyzed include Vietnam films as ideologically antithetical as Platoon and Rambo, rural sagas like Places in the Heart, teen cult films committed to the crudest version of the success ethic such as Risky Business, feminist backlash films like Fatal Attraction, and films critical of American society like Do the Right Thing and Silkwood.
This book means to provide students, teachers, and the general public with an accessible, synthetic, intradisciplinary approach to American film. I hope it succeeds.