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

By Gordon B. Arnold | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Above and Below
the Shiny Surface

The external dangers inherent in the new, unpredictable age of the atom were obvious almost immediately after World War II. In this rapidly changing world, the perceived threat of communism from the outside led to an undercurrent of uneasiness that permeated much of American culture at that time. But life within American borders was also changing rapidly. For a time, such changes seemed mostly positive, especially for the middle-class, white United States, which was poised to benefit substantially from the transformation that was under way.

In later years, some of what had seemed quite positive and forward looking to many Americans in the years immediately after the war would start to appear more double-edged. In fact, within the span of a few decades, much of what Americans originally regarded as signs of progress would take on negative overtones. Many of the apparently beneficial aspects of postwar American life would, over time, come to be seen as having hidden costs— social, economic, and environmental costs that would eventually threaten the United States’ sense of well-being.

Hollywood, meanwhile, produced films that were related to the new way of life that was developing in the United States. It mostly depicted life in an approving and positive way. Yet even in these years, some American films reflected less desirable currents. Such movies revealed stresses and strains that were emerging in the quickly changing social world and also suggested the beginnings of growing fears that the positive potential of American life could fall into ruin. A review of some aspects of postwar domestic life reveals a

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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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