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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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

desire, love, and romance. What political myths do Hollywood romances deliver to us about the meanings and power relations inhering in romantic relationalities, including attraction and attachment? What stories, experiences, and lessons about love and power are iterated in the multiplex? Our argument, in this chapter, is that romantic movies mobilise myths that inform our expectations of what is desirable, normal, and enjoyable about intimate relationships. In Hollywood romances, we see hetero­ normative and hypermonogamous imperatives prevail. Such imperatives 146

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

/it, and threats to the social polity are found in a much more diverse range of genres. In this chapter, our attention rests on films in the former category. Representations of security-as-order can be identified in films from the genres of war, political leadership, combat, spy, cop, and action movies, along with some fantasy and science fiction films. Nevertheless, only the first two – films about war and political leadership – are typically and almost inevitably immersed in the reiteration of security mythology. The most obvious location for political myths relating

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film
Andrew Thorpe

, to some extent at least, agreed view of the past. Conventional wisdoms and political myths play a large part in this process. This is particularly so where a party has itself come out on the losing side of what emerges as a dominant or hegemonic narrative. After its spell in government between 1974 and 1979, for example, the Labour party spent many years trying to overcome the resultant narrative of economic incompetence and social failure, most typically summed up by ‘memories’ of the application for an International Monetary Fund loan in 1976 and the so

in The art of the possible
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Language and politics
Richard Jackson

seeks to explore the nature of the overarching narrative or story of the ‘war on terrorism’: its main themes and appeals, its forms and expressions and the kinds of cultural and political myths that it encompasses. It examines the language that officials in the Bush administration have used to explain to the American (and global) public why the war was necessary in the first place, who the enemy is

in Writing the war on terrorism
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The ‘metropole’ and peripheral ‘others’
Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

idiosyncratic or localised) tropes, over time, in a wide range of popular films, viewed by mass audiences in Hollywood’s domestic market and around the world. We inquire into political myths as these are expressed in relation to the social fabric or the collective (in which the dual face of security, as order and disorder, features), political relationalities (as evident in intimate heteronormative and masculine homosocial interconnections), and flaws in the social fabric (where counterpoints may appear). In each of these fields, political myths are generated in particular

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

/ethnicity, or other axes of power. We consider how this spectrum of films might be understood as counter-hegemonic, how they engage with and criticise the existing social order, including the assumed ‘us’ and ‘ours’ associated with that order. Investigating a number of enduring, socially critical themes favoured by Hollywood, we identify and discuss the political myths they iterate or contest. Having outlined the terrain of the socially critical category in the previous chapter, here we explore debates about the degree of critique they afford. Do Hollywood’s ‘serious’ movies

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

9 Bromance We have argued throughout this book that political myths run deeper than the most obvious government, military, and civic agendas. Political concepts and conventions shape and influence our deepest emotional connections: power relations inform our identities even in intimate relations of intense intersubjectivity, marking what is visible and representable from the invisible and unthinkable. In the preceding two chapters, we considered how gendered power relations and romantic relationships are represented in Hollywood movies. More specifically, in

in The cultural politics of contemporary Hollywood film