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

By Gordon B. Arnold | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Hollow World

National pride and the promise of prosperity from a renewal of American Dream ideals had been prominent developments in the 1980s. But that decade had also been wracked by a bitter culture war and haunted by occasional controversy. The reinvigorated national spirit had been achieved at the cost of rising cultural and political polarization. The increasing logjams in Washington were only one incarnation of this latter trend, which was to grow only more pronounced in the 1990s. Underlying many of these controversies were markedly different ideas about the state of the nation and about the direction in which it was heading. American power and might were still not securely reasserted, in this view. And within the U.S. homeland, continuing moral decline was a constant worry. If left unchecked, it was feared, the American Dream would be seriously threatened.

The 1990s were also the end of a millennium, according to the Western, Christian calendar. Though in everyday life, this was merely to be a change of the calendar, the coming of the year 2000 caused many people to take stock of where they and their nation had been and where it was going. As the twenty-first century approached, then, undercurrents of apocalyptic, end-of-millennium anxieties, frequently repeated in popular-culture contexts, sometimes added fuel to the concerns about the United States’ ultimate fate.

Yet in the 1990s, many of the old worries and threats from earlier decades faded away. The Cold War, which had largely defined the United States’ outlook on the world for nearly a half century, disintegrated. This apparently left the United States as the victor and sole remaining

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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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