Pretty People: Movie Stars of the 1990s

Pretty People: Movie Stars of the 1990s

Pretty People: Movie Stars of the 1990s

Pretty People: Movie Stars of the 1990s


In the 1990s, American civil society got upended and reordered as many social, cultural, political, and economic institutions were changed forever. Pretty People examines a wide range of Hollywood icons who reflect how stardom in that decade was transformed as the nation itself was signaling significant changes to familiar ideas about gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, sexuality, and nationality.

Such actors as Denzel Washington, Andy Garcia, Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, and Antonio Banderas became bona fide movie stars who carried major films to amazing box-office success. Five of the decade's top ten films were opened by three women--Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, and Whoopi Goldberg. "Chick flick" entered the lexicon as Leonardo DiCaprio became the "King of the World," ushering in the cult of the mega celebrity. Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise defined screen masculinity as stark contrasts between "the regular guy" and "the intense guy" while the roles of Michael Douglas exemplified the endangered "Average White Male." A fascinating composite portrait of 1990s Hollywood and its stars, this collection marks the changes to stardom and society at century's end.


Anna Everett

Everybody wants to be famous. Nobody needs it.

— Jayne Cortez

Hollywood stardom was transformed in fundamental ways in the 1990s, as was the nation itself during this final and revolutionary decade of the twentieth century. the period saw much of American society upended and reordered, with many social, cultural, political, and economic institutions radically altered. Among those affected was the phenomenon of film stardom as an index of changing national values and societal norms. Significant changes to familiar social scripts about identity norms, in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, sexuality, and nationality, tracked more consistently with the fin de siècle demands of American multiculturalism and transnational capitalism’s globalization imperatives. Equally important were such epochal technological advances as Englishman Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web and web server software systems in 1991 that changed society forever. and in 1993, twelve years of Republican dominance of the White House came to an end with the inauguration of Arkansas governor Bill Clinton as president; he would subsequently become the first Democrat to be twice elected president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Other major U.S. events of the decade included the opening of the Mall of America, the largest mall in the country, in Minnesota; the Persian Gulf War and the 24/7 news cycle responsible for what became known as the “CNN effect”; David Dinkins taking office as mayor of New York and Douglas Wilder as governor of Virginia, the first African Americans to hold these positions (Wilder becoming the nation’s first African American governor since Reconstruction); the debut of Netscape’s web browser and Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system, presaging the dotcom boom; the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, in which Hill accused of Thomas of sexual harassment and the Senate considered and later approved his nomination to the Supreme Court; the beating of motorist Rodney King by four Los Angeles policemen, followed by the release of the videotape that captured . . .

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