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

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

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

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

Excerpt

This book is unique. It combines the most extensive systematic content analysis ever completed of social and political themes in motion pictures from 1946 to the present, with the most detailed study ever conducted of the political views and personalities of a random sample of leaders in the motion picture industry. The two studies are integrated with a broad historical discussion of changes in American life, as part of an effort to understand the impact of the American motion picture industry on America and the impact of trends and events in America on American motion pictures. We are thus engaged in a sociological study of the motion picture industry, a task that has been undertaken by few others, except for Marxist and neo-Marxist scholars.

The book, part of a larger study of leadership and social change in the United States directed by Stanley Rothman, is one of a series that includes volumes on television, the press, and high school history textbooks, among other subjects.

The inspiration for the studies comes in large part from political scientist Harold Lasswell and sociologist Daniel Bell. As early as in the 1950s, Lasswell maintained that the key strategic elites (leadership groups) of the twentieth century would increasingly be those concerned with the creation and distribution of symbols for either knowledge or entertainment (Lasswell andLerner, 1952). Bell made a similar point and also sketched the impact of such elites upon American society (Bell, 1973, 1976). His argument, which we accept, is that certain key changes in American society have produced a cultural elite (broadly defined) that has become critical of bourgeois society and is contributing in important ways to transforming its social values and replacing them with new ones.

It is only recently that social scientists have begun to study these newly powerful strategic elites, at least in part because their role did not become substantially significant until the 1960s, though there were antecedents, for example, in journalism and academia. As political scientists and sociologists have begun to relate the study of various cultural elites to other elements of the political system, they have encountered other analysts from university language and literature departments with their own approach to what has come to be called "cultural studies." The cultural studies approach tends to be antithetical to that of contemporary social science, though it is beginning to influence social science as well. As of now, cultural studies dominates academic film criticism.

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