Assignment Due The 13th Compare and contrast the following movies: – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Citizen Kane – Casa Blanca Discuss the political co

Compare and contrast the following movies:

– Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

– Citizen Kane

– Casa Blanca

Discuss the political content. Mentioned the political content, political impact at the time of their release. Interpret how politics were reflected and resolve in the film. 

Must:

-Give examples

– Use only the following source (attached to this post)

– 3-5 pages

– Double-space

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The new edition of this infl uential work revises, updates, and expands the scope of the origi-
nal and includes more sustained analyses of individual fi lms, from The Birth of a Nation to
The Wolf of Wall Street. An interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between Ameri-
can politics and popular fi lm, Projecting Politics offers original approaches to determining
the political contours of fi lms and to connecting cinematic language to political messaging.
A new chapter covering 2000 to 2013 updates the decade-by-decade look at the Washington–
Hollywood nexus, with special areas of focus including the post-9/11 increase in overtly
political fi lms and the tension between the rise of political war fi lms like Green Zone and
fi lms tightly constructed around the experience of U.S. troops like The Hurt Locker. The
new edition also considers recent developments such as the Citizens United Supreme Court
decision, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, the political dispute over Zero Dark Thirty,
newer generation actor-activists, and the effects of shifting industrial fi nancing structures on
political content. A new chapter addresses the resurgence of the disaster-apocalyptic fi lm,
while updated chapters on nonfi ction fi lm, the politics of race, and gender in political fi lms
round out this expansive, timely new work.

A recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in the Humanities, Elizabeth Haas has pub-
lished in numerous journals and teaches fi lm studies at the University of Bridgeport in
Connecticut.

The author of many books including Local Politics: Governing at the Grassroots, Terry
Christensen is professor emeritus in the political science department at San Jose State Uni-
versity in California.

Peter J. Haas, recipient of a Fulbright Foundation Senior Specialist grant, is education
director for the Mineta Transportation Institute and teaches political science at San Jose
State University.

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This edition published 2015
by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

and by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2015 Taylor & Francis

The right of Elizabeth Haas, Terry Christensen, and Peter J. Haas to be
identifi ed as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with
sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or
utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the
publishers.

Trademark notice : Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered
trademarks, and are used only for identifi cation and explanation without intent
to infringe.

First edition published 2005 by M. E. Sharpe

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Christensen, Terry.
Projecting politics : political messages in American fi lms / Elizabeth
Haas, Peter J. Haas, and Terry Christensen.—Second edition
p. cm.
Revised edition of: Projecting politics: political messages in American fi lm /
Terry Christensen and Peter J. Haas.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Motion pictures—Political aspects—United States. 2. Politics in
motion pictures. 3. United States—Politics and government—20th
century. 4. United States—Politics and government—21st century. I. Haas,
Elizabeth, 1964– II. Haas, Peter J. III. Title.
PN1995.9.P6C47 2014
791.43′658—dc23
2014025319

ISBN: 978-0-7656-3596-9 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-7656-3597-6 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-315-72079-1 (ebk)

Typeset in Times New Roman
by Apex CoVantage, LLCD

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Preface vii
Acknowledgments xi

I. Studying Political Films

1. Setting the Scene: A Theory of Film and Politics 3
2. The Making of a Message: Film Production and

Techniques, and Political Messages 25
3. Causes and Special Effects: The Political Environment of Film 61

II. Political Films by Decade

4. Politics in the Silent Movies 95
5. The 1930s: Political Movies and the Great Depression 105
6. The 1940s: Hollywood Goes to War 121
7. The 1950s: Anti-Communism and Conformity 137
8. The 1960s: From Mainstream to Counterculture 153
9. The 1970s: Cynicism, Paranoia, War, and Anticapitalism 169
10. The 1980s: New Patriotism, Old Reds, and a Return to Vietnam in

the Age of Reagan 193
11. The 1990s: FX Politics 217
12. The Twenty-First Century: 9/11 and Beyond 237

III. Political Films by Topic

13. True Lies? The Rise of Political Documentaries 269
14. Film and the Politics of Race: The Minority Report 291
15. Women, Politics, and Film: All About Eve? 313
16. White House Down? Politics in Disaster 343

Contents

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CONTENTS

vi

Appendix

Closing Credits: A Political Filmography 371

Index 393
About the Authors 409

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Interest in the relationship between American politics and fi lm appears to be on the rise.
Explicitly political fi lms from the biting documentary about the George W. Bush adminis-
tration’s “war on terror” Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) to the historical White House drama The
Butler (2013) are fi lling theaters and collecting awards—2012 was even dubbed the year
of the political fi lm. Within that trend fi lms with expressly activist discourses also appear
ascendant. The rightwing documentary America: Imagine the World Without Her (2014)
urges viewers to “stop” the Obama White House, while the DVD release date of the eco-
logically themed sci-fi fantasy Avatar (2009) was timed with Earth Day 2010 to support an
international reforestation campaign. Yet a review of the academic literature on political fi lm
as well as the content of the many books dedicated to the subject reveals disagreement, if not
confusion, about what exactly constitutes a political fi lm and why.

All fi lm genres are historical in nature and derive from the repetition of certain fi lm ele-
ments, including character types, plot patterns, setting, and iconography. These repeated
elements establish a framework recognizable to and shaped by fi lmmakers and audiences
alike. Yet political scientists and fi lm scholars seem to agree only on the complexity and
diffi culty of assigning to political fi lms any single set of identifying features or genre con-
ventions. Researchers into this area will instead encounter a bewildering array of critical and
analytic approaches. This book aims to provide a coherent overview of the subject and intro-
duces a methodology useful to any researcher of the topic for considering any fi lm’s political
value. The second edition revises, expands, and updates the fi rst edition while maintaining
its organization and offering sustained analysis of a greater number of fi lms.

We believe that the most important and overarching aspect of the study of politics and
fi lm is the political messages that movies may transmit. We therefore believe that such
messages have potentially tremendous political signifi cance that transcends basic critical
analysis. However, a major obstacle to the task of analyzing fi lm from this perspective is
the general lack of reliable data and research that demonstrate (1) that movies indeed send
messages beyond general and readily identifi able ideological impressions, and (2) that
these messages have verifi able and measurable effects on the political behavior of individu-
als and institutions. Although we present research to support these assumptions, it is not
within the scope of our intentions for this text to prove that they are wholly valid. Rather we
stress the importance of recognizing the varying degrees of political messaging intrinsic to
most popular fi lms.

Preface

vii

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PREFACE

viii

Our interest here is exclusively with (more or less) American fi lms. Certainly foreign
fi lms present an intriguing canon of politically interesting releases, but in addition to limit-
ing our study to a manageable scope, we believe that American movies are the most likely
both to be seen by readers and to infl uence American politics. Thus anyone with an interest
in comparative studies will want to supplement this text with other materials. On a related
note, we devote most of our attention to popular movies. Certainly other volumes could be
devoted to fi lms that fewer people are likely to see, but we think that popular movies are the
ones that are most likely to be politically salient—they are also the most accessible, both in
terms of audience comprehension and ready availability.

Projecting Politics is divided into three parts. Part I provides a conceptual overview of the
relationship between politics and fi lm. Chapter 1 explores the meaning of the term “politi-
cal fi lm” in a systematic way, so as to assist those who study politics and fi lm. The goal
is to identify a practical yet focused approach for thinking about and classifying all fi lms
with respect to their political signifi cance. Chapter 2 explores how the various techniques
involved in the production of movies help to create political messages. We examine the
elements of fi lm production to reveal how cinematic language can be and has been used
to shape political messages in various ways. Chapter 3 examines how the “real world” of
politics, ideological institutions, and society affects the “reel world” of Hollywood and fi lm-
making. While not meant to be an exhaustive examination, this chapter approaches that real-
to-reel connection from a range of perspectives and fi nds that, historically, political forces
have had a profound impact on the making of fi lms. We also argue that the worlds of fi lm
and politics are increasingly intertwined. When fi lms like Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), 2016:
Obama’s America (2012), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) draw audiences and incite political
debate, and a fi lm like The Invisible War (2012) leads to landmark legislation, and an aging
Hollywood action hero from fi lms like Total Recall (1990) wins a recall election to become
governor of California, these worlds appear even to collide.

In Part II , we provide a historical overview of American fi lms of political signifi cance.
Each chapter covers the fi lms of a decade; new to this edition is the chapter covering the
period from 2000 through 2014. We recognize that categorizing fi lms in this way is some-
what arbitrary. Both historical trends and trends in fi lmmaking overlap decades—and we
take this overlap into account. But at the same time, referring to decades provides a ready
historical context for the movies we discuss and helps readers comprehend change and
development in political fi lmmaking by providing a rough chronological order. Although we
look at the tenor of a range of fi lms in each decade, we generally focus most intently on fi lms
with overt political themes and content.

Our discussion of each decade of movies is not intended to be entirely systematic from a
critical-analytic perspective. In some instances, we seek to explore the political messages of
fi lms; in others, we examine the impact or potential impact a fi lm had. We also look at why
some fi lms of political signifi cance are more popular with critics and the public than others,
as we believe that the reasons fi lms are successful have implications for the relationship
between fi lm and politics. But we do not mean to imply that fi nancially unsuccessful movies
are categorically without merit or political signifi cance. Additionally, we frequently cite box
offi ce numbers and the comments of popular press movie critics as reception studies or indi-
cations of how fi lms were received by audiences and made meaningful in popular culture.

Part III of this volume compiles four topical approaches to fi lm and politics: documenta-
ries, race, gender, and, new to the second edition, the recently revived disaster and apocalyptic

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PREFACE

ix

fi lm genre. Our discussion of minority fi lms in Chapter 13 uses as a case study movies by
and about African-Americans and concerns racial politics specifi c to that socially designated
group alone. This selective approach is not meant to suggest that the nexus of racial identity,
race relations, fi lm, and politics is limited to the black experience or that conclusions drawn
from this chapter should or even can be extrapolated to other groups. Rather the representa-
tion of African-American culture in American popular fi lm offers an especially compelling
and instructive case of how racial politics and Hollywood fi lmmaking intersect.

Finally, we include as an appendix a political fi lmography that compiles most of the more
blatantly political fi lms in this book, plus others that space and time did not permit us to
address, with their box offi ce performance.

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— Dedicated to Ruth Miller Haas and the memory of Harold Haas —

Contributor to the fi rst edition and sole author of the second edition, Elizabeth Haas, would
like to acknowledge the principle authors of the fi rst edition, Terry Christensen and Peter
Haas. It was a privilege to revise and expand their original work. Many thanks go to editor
Suzanne Phelps Chambers and to research assistants James Griffi th and Julie Nagasaki. For
helpful comments at the 2012 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
and the 2014 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference much appreciation
to Lisa Purse, Matthias Stork, and Natalie Taylor. Thanks also to colleagues Susan Crutch-
fi eld, Frank Tomasulo, Roxana Walker-Canton, Montre Aza-Missouri, and Philip Bahr, and
to students Angelika Zbikowski, Audra Martin, Eve Seiter, Michael Girandola, and Erik
Fong, fi lm authorities all. Bridget Dalen supplied camaraderie and invaluable media exper-
tise. Beth Carter, Janice Portentoso, Cheryl Eustace, Deede Demato, and Michelle Chapman
provided friendship and the village it indeed takes. For inspiration and abiding kindness,
gratitude unfeigned to Tobin Siebers. For making the world new every day, Dash and Jolie
each: “Impossible without Me! That sort of Bear.”

Above all: Manyul.

Acknowledgments

xi

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Studying Political Films

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1

Setting the Scene
A Theory of Film and Politics

Argo (2012)

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STUDYING POLITICAL FILMS

4

The study of movies does not fi t neatly into the discipline of political science or the other
social sciences. Although fi lm is a mass medium, political scientists have devoted decidedly
less attention to it than to mass news media such as television, newspapers, the Internet, and,
increasingly, to social media. 1 For one thing, data about movies are diffi cult to quantify in
meaningful ways. From one perspective, movies are independent variables, cultural stimuli
that potentially address and modify the political attitudes and behaviors of audiences and
society. However, many fi lms—particularly the most fi nancially successful ones—seem
themselves to be “caused” by external social and political conditions. Furthermore, certain
fi lms seem to assume a life of their own and interact with the political environment. Well-
publicized and sometimes controversial and politically charged movies such as All The Pres-
ident’s Men (1976), Wag the Dog (1997), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) can even become part
of the political landscape and discourse.

However, thinking of movies as independent variables does not seem likely to shed light
upon the more nuanced aspects of the relationship between fi lm and politics, especially for
fi lms that are—on the surface, at least—not very political. And the relationship may be far
more complex and fi nely calibrated than the typical social science model of clearly identifi ed
independent and dependent variables. As Phillip Gianos notes, “politics and movies inform
each other. . . . Both tell about the society from which they come.” 2 (Or as Wag the Dog ’s
Hollywood movie producer hired to create a fi ctional war to distract the public’s attention
from a presidential sex scandal cynically describes his efforts, “This is politics at its fi nest.”)
Douglas Kellner argues that Hollywood fi lm actually “ intervenes in the political struggles
of the day” and like American society constitutes contested territory. As such, “Films can be
interpreted as a struggle of representation over how to construct a social world and everyday
life.” 3 Rejecting a more passive model of thinking about fi lm and politics, these assessments
point to politics and fi lm as actively engaged with each other.

Political analysis of fi lm has commonly taken a qualitative or even literary approach,
although some intriguing research has explored the direct behavioral impact of specifi c
fi lms. 4 A small- scale audience study in the mid- 1990s found that viewers of Oliver Stone’s
controversial biopic JFK (1991) reported a signifi cant decrease in their intentions to vote.
The authors determined that the fi lm’s assassination conspiracy premise left viewers with
a “hopelessness” that extended to a sense of political futility. 5 A more recent investiga-
tion working from a larger sample concluded that popular fi lms retain the power to shape
political attitudes in part because the possibility for persuasion is greatest precisely when
one is least aware that political messages are being communicated. The authors found that
sentimental movies about personal struggles involving aspects of the healthcare system
like the romantic comedy As Good As It Gets (1997), in which a waitress has diffi culty
affording the healthcare of her ailing son, affected the way viewers appraised policies like
the politically contentious Affordable Care Act, leading to the conclusion that “popular
fi lms possess the capability to change attitudes on political issues” and that “the potential
for popular fi lms to generate lasting attitudinal change presents an important area for
future research.” 6 Within narrow fi elds of investigation, both studies found that a few spe-
cifi c fi lms had certain measurable effects on generalized audience political outlooks and
intentions.

One major obstacle to a more systematic and wider- reaching study of fi lm and politics
is the lack of a clear defi nition of what constitutes a political fi lm. In this chapter, we fi rst

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SETTING THE SCENE: A THEORY OF FILM AND POLITICS

5

outline the contours of political fi lm categorization and then offer a plausible framework for
classifying fi lms that may be used as a tool for in- depth analyses.

Political Content

Perhaps the most commonly used approach for distinguishing political fi lms is political con-
tent. In this approach, political fi lms are presumed to be those that depict various aspects of
the political system, especially (but not necessarily) political institutions, political actors,
and/or the political system. Whereas nearly every movie that focuses on political content of
this type would probably qualify as suffi ciently political, many other fi lms, some entirely
devoid of explicit political references, are excluded using this approach. But in a sense,
every fi lm has political signifi cance and meaning. All fi lms transmit ideas of political impor-
tance if only by telling some stories instead of others or by favoring one character’s point of
view over another’s.

Films on the whole mirror the way political processes manage the confl icting needs and
demands of different groups of people. Filmmakers struggle to get projects made or to attract
audiences to their work by striking some level of balance between appealing to current atti-
tudes and tastes and challenging the same. Political constituencies compete with each other
for infl uence and control while political representatives negotiate among them, often picking
winners and losers along the way. Even by featuring a popular actor in a controversial part,
fi lms indicate bias. Philadelphia (1993) provides a case in point. With all- American funny
guy Tom Hanks in the role of an ailing, gay AIDS patient suing his employer for wrongful
termination and handsome, winning Denzel Washington as his lawyer, the fi lm preemptively
mitigates the chance of wholesale rejection at the box offi ce and builds in sympathy for a
politically marginalized and, especially at the time of the fi lm’s release, socially reviled
group. Anyone with an interest in the impact of movies must be prepared to sift through any
movie as a potential vessel of political meaning.

Until recently, few book- length studies of a genre called “political fi lms” existed. Com-
mercial categorizations and genre- based analyses alike have been apt to assign what are
arguably political fi lms to other albeit fi tting categories like biography (e.g., Malcolm X ,
1992; Erin Brockovich , 2000; W ., 2008; J. Edgar , 2011; Lincoln , 2012) or thriller (e.g.,
Argo , 2012; Broken City , 2013) as if these more readily agreed-upon and commercially
proven genres were also defi nitive and exclusive. 7 Other approaches understandably blur the
line between political and ideological meaning. These analyses tend not to establish clear
separation between a fi lm’s depiction of a particular political realm and its ideologically
more wide- reaching implications. After all, ideology has been called “the most elusive con-
cept in the whole of social science” while at the same time proliferating as a critical category
both in those sciences as well as in studies of fi lm—especially interdisciplinary approaches. 8

While ideology can refer to explicit political beliefs or belief systems like those endorsed
by a particular political party or associated with liberal and conservative perspectives, the
more philosophical and social-theoretical conception of ideology is more complex. Ideology
in this usage refers to implicit views and assumptions that seem to be common-sense truths
or natural beliefs, neutral in their apparent universality, but that really serve the interests of a
ruling class or dominant force in society. By defi nition, this kind of ideology or “false ideas”
can be diffi cult to discern. Yet Douglas Kellner suggests ideology “functions within popular

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STUDYING POLITICAL FILMS

6

culture and everyday life” and that “images and fi gures constitute part of the ideological rep-
resentations of sex, race, and class in fi lm and popular culture.” 9 In this view most movies can
be useful sites for uncovering ideological meaning not restricted to obvious political content.

For better or worse there has been and continues to be little critical unanimity about pre-
cisely which form and content would unarguably indicate a political fi lm. American political
fi lms have not widely or uniformly received recognition as a specifi c genre. For example, in
the latest edition of the infl uential Film Genre Reader , not one of thirty- six chapters specifi –
cally addresses political fi lms. 10 This omission contrasts with the decision of the Library of
Congress’s Moving Image Genre Form Guide to include under “political” a succinct defi ni-
tion: “Fictional work centering on the political milieu, often of candidates, elections, and
elective or appointive offi ce. Some of the protagonists may be corrupt or dictatorial.” 11 The
genre’s exclusion from the Film Genre Reader and inclusion in the Moving Image Genre
Form Guide ’s comparatively exhaustive list, featuring more than 125 genres and including
one dubbed “city symphony,” points less to a dearth of politically topical fi lms than to the
widespread lack of consensus over what exact qualities constitute the genre. As implied by
the Moving Image Genre Form Guide , there are perhaps enough fi lms that are overtly politi-
cal to most viewers to constitute a genre, yet until the last few years they have not commonly
been acknowledged, much less promoted, as such.

In fi lm criticism a genre is primarily defi ned as a category or group of fi lms about the
same subject or marked by the same style—musicals, for example, or western, gangster, war,
science fi ction, or horror movies. Yet most of these genres are “un- contentious,” declares
Steve Neale, and their critical categorizations have “generally coincided with those used by
the industry itself.” 12 Films in the same genre tend to look alike and observe certain conven-
tions, although there are exceptions to both rules even among less controversial genres. Any
given fi lm may obey many established generic conventions but vary enough in one crucial
aspect that it defi es easy inclusion in that genre. Set in the past in the American west, and
featuring horses, dramatic vistas, and physically tough cowboys of few words, Brokeback
Mountain shares many conventions with the western. The queer sexuality of its main charac-
ter, Heath Ledger’s tortured ranch- hand Ennis Del Mar, however, breaks with the western’s
characterization of masculinity as a function of heterosexuality. On the other end of the issue
of genre and inclusiveness, Thelma and Louise (1991) is considered a road movie or buddy
fl ick, but it also includes many conventions of the western genre. Played by Geena Davis and
Susan Sarandon, the title characters are outlaws on the run through Monument Valley, the
location of many John Ford westerns from the 1930s and 1940s, and their fate is straight out
of the incontestable western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Their plight chal-
lenges the patriarchal foundation to civilization’s

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