Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline

Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline

Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline

Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline

Synopsis

Long before the war in Iraq and the economic crises of the early 21st century, Hollywood has depicted a grim view of life in the United States, one that belies the prosperity and abundance of the so-called American Dream. While the country emerged from World War II as a world power, collectively our sense of security had been threatened. The result is a cinematic body of work that has America's decline and ruin as a central theme. The author draws from popular films across all genres and six decades to illustrate how the political climate of the times influenced their creation.

"Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline" combines film history, social history, and political history to reveal important themes in the unfolding American narrative. Discussions focus on a wide variety of films, including "Rambo," "Planet of the Apes," and "Easy Rider."

Excerpt

This book examines various ways that American film has envisioned the demise of the United States in the years since the 1940s. Its purpose is to explore how unfolding events and circumstances have shaped literal and metaphorical film portrayals of the United States’ ruin and the end of the American Dream. It also considers how the long succession of such works from Hollywood has influenced the continuing construction of the American narrative.

Hollywood and the idea of the American Dream are deeply intertwined with each other. The American Dream, an amorphous collection of hopes, ideals, and aspirations, is woven into the fabric of many stories that mainstream American films tell. It may not always be the most obvious part of such stories, but it is often a taken-for-granted part element in movies across a wide range of genres. The notion that the United States is a good and just nation and that its way of life will persist into the future, overcoming any challenges, is an underlying perspective that has been repeated in countless American films.

But as much as Hollywood has reflected, and perhaps reinforced, this important part of the unfolding American narrative, the U.S. film industry has also reflected a much more anxious picture of the United States’ condition. In this alternate view, which in some ways is the flip side of the American Dream, the United States is not secure and its way of life is under challenge. In this vision, which is also embedded in many Hollywood productions, the United States is in a perilous moral state and seems to be hurtling toward an apocalypse, either literally or figuratively.

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