Is the movie liberal?

None of these stories can be said to reflect or advance the agenda of anything you can say left. Mainstream American films have been in love with guns for decades, skeptical of democracy, skeptical of feminism, uncomfortable with divorce, allergic to abortion, sexual everywhere and very nervous about doing anything with caste.

I know there are exceptions, and I’m not trying to reverse the script and give Hollywood a reactionary look, although it’s true that in the years of the production code (from the mid-’30s to the late ’60s), Hollywood presented a fairly conservative view of American life. Non-marital sex was strictly policing, international romance was strictly forbidden. The crime could not be paid, and the dignity of the organization must be protected. Even in the post-code years, what mainstream American films have often provided is not a critical engagement with reality, but a fantasy of stability. Forms of influential narratives, tending towards the end of happiness or liberation – or, more recently, towards the horizon of endless sequels – are fundamentally positive about the way things are. What they confirm is, above all, an ideology of consensus, harmony that is not so apolitical as political opposition, finds expression not at the voting booth but at the box office.

At least since the end of World War II, the production of consensus has been an integral part of Hollywood’s cultural mission and its business model. During the war, the studios worked closely with the military to provide morale-busting, mission-explanatory messages to the public in front of the house, a collaboration that helped enhance the industry’s prestige and sense of its own importance. In the post-war era, even as they faced the challenges of television, the distrust of the judiciary, and the demographic instability of viewers, the studios envisioned their goals in a universal context. The movie was for everyone.

This article on faith in a society defined by pluralism has always been a solid sell and, perhaps, more endless than we would like to admit by polarization. The notion that films in the second half of the 20th century reflected the now-defunct consensus is doubly dubious. There was never a consensus, except that Hollywood made it. Perhaps more than any other American organization, Hollywood has worked to extend the contract, to envisage a space within the walls of the theater and on the screen – where conflicts can be resolved and conflicts can be resolved. In the west, cowboys fought Indians, ranchers fought railroads, and sheriffs fired on foreigners. But the result of those struggles was peace on the border and the progress of a less violent, more benevolent civilization. In the drama of racial conflict, Sidney Poitier and the incarnations of intolerance (Tony Curtis, Spencer Tracy, Rod Steiger) finally found common ground.

It was not propaganda in the general sense, but a vast myth, a reservoir of stories and meanings that did not need to be believed to be effective. We always know that movies are not real – we want to emphasize that watching them is a kind of dream – and that is why we love them so much.

By “we” I mean the film audience, a group that has long been a parallel form of citizenship, a civic identity with its own ideology. The best cultural history of American cinema has been called “Movie-Made America” ​​by critic and scholar Robert Scholar. This is a reflection of the title, and one of Scholar’s arguments is that the movie has made Americans.

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