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

By Gordon B. Arnold | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
A Dangerous World

The great victory achieved in World War II had propelled the United States to the forefront of world powers, but within that victory were the seeds of doubt and anxiety. U.S. politics and popular culture often reflected and amplified the positive aspects of the United States’ new position and prestige, but the darker potential inherent in the new realities of the world was always nearby. After the war, then, a vision of the United States on the brink of disaster began to take shape in American politics and popular culture. Sometimes this was very obvious, but at other times it was subtly hidden in narratives that seemed to be about something else.

Overcoming the Great Depression and the challenges of World War II had been possible only at great cost and sacrifice. But as difficult as they were, the hard years of the 1930s and first half of the 1940s were transformational for the United States. Upon meeting these enormous challenges, the nation found itself standing at the head of what it called the “free world.” It had attained a level of power and influence that was unmatched in modern times.

Yet, if the United States was now viewing the world from the top of a mighty mountain, it was a view that was not altogether comforting. Powerful enemies had been decisively vanquished in World War II, but new enemies stood ready to test the United States’ might and values. Almost immediately, the USSR was perceived as the primary new foe. It had been an ally of the United States during the war. After the war, however, old suspicions about it came rushing back. The ideological conflict between the two powers in the postwar world soon escalated into a long and costly “Cold War.” And as U.S. politics became enmeshed in increasingly heated Cold

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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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