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Power, culture, and society

This book interrogates the interplay of cultural and political aspects of contemporary Hollywood movies. Using ‘security’ films dealing with public order and disorder (Part I), romantic comedies and other movies presenting intimate relationalities (Part II), socially engaged films offering overtly critical messages (Part III), and analysis of Hollywood’s global reach and impact (Part IV), it articulates and illustrates an original cultural politics approach to film. The book employs an expanded conception of ‘the political’ to enquire into power relations in public, private, and policy arenas in order to advance a new framework and methodology for cultural politics. It demonstrates how movies both reflect and produce political myths that largely uphold the status quo as they shape our dreams, identities, and selves.

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The cultural politics of popular film
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

1 Introduction: the cultural politics of popular film Going to the movies and mulling over power and politics are usually understood to be mutually exclusive activities. Movies are often thought to be escapist entertainments specifically removed from the world of power, politics, and social analysis. Yet even though movies may well be experienced as enjoyable flights of fancy, they are also thoroughly implicated and invested in power relations – they are part of the cultural and political landscape that both constructs and reflects social life. Movies and

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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The ‘metropole’ and peripheral ‘others’
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

which continually elaborate crucial socio-political beliefs. These cinematic narratives endorse and solidify what is of shared significance for a The big picture: ‘metropole’ and ‘others’ 253 polity, alongside what is either not acknowledged or beyond recognition, and is excluded from that polity. In this light, we now reflect upon the current state of Hollywood’s cultural politics. We have suggested that the historical frame in which the Hollywood film industry developed has involved three major stages – the ‘Golden Age’, ‘New Hollywood’, and contemporary

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

6 Fearsome monsters In this chapter, we explore zombie movies as a particular incarnation of the fearsome monster category for their cultural-political meanings, locations, and effects. Zombies are, for the most part, a cinematic invention whose history is folkloric rather than literary (Bishop, 2006). They are reanimated corpses, ‘the living dead’ or ‘the walking dead’, who spread their contagion and multiply their numbers by killing people and feeding on their victims’ flesh.1 Applying sociologist Ulrich Beck’s (2001) concept of ‘zombie categories’ to their

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

13 Responses from ‘the margins’ While we have acknowledged that the past and continuing global dominance of Hollywood movies remains obvious and at present apparently inexorable, debate continues about whether this domination is, in essence, to be celebrated or condemned. Competing views about Hollywood are associated with questions regarding what effects arise from this domination. To examine and assess the cultural politics of American imperialism – that is, the socio-political effects of Hollywood’s cinematic dominance – it is necessary to consider debates

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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Order and disorder
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

, protect, and defend your constitutional liberties. (Jack Valenti, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America 1966–2004, 2002) Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from. (Mae West)1 In this chapter, we begin by considering what a cultural politics approach brings to understandings of political myths and narratives of national security as these are presented in Hollywood movies. After briefly reviewing the extent and reach of Hollywood’s global domination of the film industry (see chapters 12 and 13 for more detail), we consider

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

2 Frames Movies are cultural artefacts with specific political and social frames of reference. This chapter provides an overview of two frames we use to register and delineate the cultural politics of film. The first of these is conceptual, and turns on the idea that Hollywood movies both reflect and produce political myths. We introduce and define such myths, exploring how an expanding, globalising Hollywood is implicated in reiterating and generating fundamental political understandings. In addition, even though the main focus of our attention is contemporary

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

5 Disorder and fear Fear, as both a motivation for and tactic of security, occupies an important place in cultural politics. Security can be understood positively as the struggle to generate or protect the social order, moral worth, and the citizenry, or negatively as struggling against or dealing with threats. Security films reiterate conceptions of order, virtue, authority, and safety on one hand, as against disorder, impropriety, social rifts, and danger on the other. In this chapter and the next, we turn to this second side of security films. When security

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

of power that are just as effective as explicit prohibitions and laws. In this chapter, we begin by reprising the ‘cultural politics’ approach adopted throughout this book as it applies in the specific context of intimate relationalities. We consider what (or who) is visible in Holly­ wood film. Using Allan G. Johnson’s (2014) exposition of male domination, male-centredness, and male identification we consider, by degrees, the sidelining and devaluation of women’s experience relative to men’s. Our contention is that popular movies both reflect and produce gendered

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
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Socially critical movies
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

, collective shape. What, for Hollywood, constitutes seriously critical engagement? Do some themes or types of social problem dominate, while others are sidelined or ignored? What do the characteristics attached to the diverse range of socially critical offerings tell us about political myths and power? Until now we have discussed how Hollywood films reflect and produce prevailing political myths regarding the social order, citizens and communities, relationalities, and identities. Using a ‘cultural politics’ approach, we have explored how power relations shape and are

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film