Defining Our Enemies: Hollywood's Response to the Cold War and 9/11




Dupler, Reagan

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At some point in our lives, we have all experienced the “magic of the movies.” Films have a unique power to tell stories that take their audience far beyond reality. However, storytelling also has the power to convey thoughts and feelings about the world in which we live. History and film are inextricably linked in forming our culture. Films provide a forum for discussing ideas while also creating a legacy that will shape the collective memory of future generations. In this thesis, I evaluate two critical periods of United States history and some of the popular films that provided commentary on these events. During the end of the Cold War and after 9/11, conversations surrounding the nature of patriotism, militarism, and sources of fear permeated America. I recount the historical context of two decades, the 1980s and 2000s, in order to contextualize these conversations. With this backdrop, I identify major themes in science fiction, action, and adventure films that provide insight into Hollywood’s perceptions of the greatest threats facing American society. Ultimately, I present the thematic differences between a focus in the 1980s on external threats to the American way of life and a focus in the 2000s on internal threats reflecting corruption in the American way of life.