Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film

Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film

Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film

Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film

Synopsis

This volume explores film's function as a medium of political communication, recognizing not just the propaganda film, but the various ways that conventional narrative films embody, question, or critique established social values underlying American attitudes toward historical, social, and political events. Prince discusses Hollywood film productions of the 1980s in terms of salient political issues of the period, including anxieties about declining U.S. military power, the wars in Central America and the prospects for U.S. intervention, the legacy of the Vietnam War, and urban decay.

Excerpt

Political scholars have historically recognized the social power of the mass media. the influence and role of the mass media in the electoral and governing processes have greatly increased over the last forty years. Today, the mass media have become the "central nervous system" for our society and the major source of public information about politics. the social power of the media is probably at an all time high. Today's media can quickly and efficiently attract, focus, and direct attention to social problems. They serve as our primary channels for public persuasion and mobilization.

Much of the power and influence of the mass media go beyond their messages to include the unique form and requirements of the specific medium. Television, for example, requires a special adaptation of the message, which should be simple, dramatic, visual, involving. and tied to an individual (Denton, 1968). By the early 1980s, Dan Nimmo and James Combs (1983) noted that few people learn about politics from direct experience. They argue that political realities are mediated through mass and group communication. the impact upon social behavior, according to Joshua Meyrowitz (1985), is the reorganization of social settings in which people interact simultaneous with the weakening of the relationship between "physical place and social place" (ix). Thus, physical presence is no longer a prerequisite for first-hand experience of the world. For Nimmo and Combs, the result is the "creation, transmission, and adoption of political fantasies as realistic views of what takes place" (xv).

Even political reporting, according to Murray Edelman (1988), has become were "spectacle" that "continuously constructs and reconstructs social problems, crises, enemies, and leaders" (1). As a result, "accounts . . .

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