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

By Gordon B. Arnold | Go to book overview

Preface

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.

-vii-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 - American Ruin, the American Dream, and Hollywood 1
  • Chapter 2 - Backstory 21
  • Chapter 3 - A Dangerous World 39
  • Chapter 4 - Above and below the Shiny Surface 61
  • Chapter 5 - Rising Paranoia 81
  • Chapter 6 - Eruption 113
  • Chapter 7 - Disillusion 143
  • Chapter 8 - Shimmering Façade 169
  • Chapter 9 - Hollow World 195
  • Chapter 10 - Apocalypse Realized 223
  • Notes 247
  • Selected Bibliography 265
  • Index 273
  • About the Author 281
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