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November 15 , 2009

Hollywood Goes to Washington

American Politics on Screen


Fantasy and politics are familiar dancing partners that rarely separate, even in the face of post–Election Day realities. But Hollywood has a tradition of punching holes in the fairy tales of electoral promises with films that meditate on what could have been and should have been. With Hollywood Goes to Washington,Michael Coyne investigates how the American political film unravels the labyrinthine entanglements of politics and the psyche of the American electorate in order to reveal brutal truths about the state of our democracy.

From conspiracy dramas such as The Manchurian Candidate to satires like Wag the DogHollywood Goes to Washington argues that political films in American cinema have long reflected the issues and tensions roiling within American society. Coyne elucidates the mythology, iconography, and ideology embedded in both classic and lesser-known films—including Gabriel Over the White House, Silver City, Advise and Consent, and The Siege—and examines the cinematic portrayals of presidents in the White House, the everyman American citizen, and the nebulous enemies who threaten American democracy. The author provocatively contends that whether addressing the threat of domestic fascism in Citizen Kane or the disillusionment of Vietnam and paranoia of the post-Watergate era in Executive Action, the American political film stands as an important cultural bellwether and democratic force—one that is more vital than ever in the face of decreasing civil liberties in the present-day United States.

Compelling and wholly original, Hollywood Goes to Washington exposes the political power of the silver screen and its ramifications for contemporary American culture.
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