We tend to perceive the movies as providing entertainment and escapism. Hence we suspend disbelief when entering the theater, where visual imagery and music mesh with our “common sense” ways of understanding life. This process is ideological: For instance, in the 1930’s MGM offered superbly dressed aristocrats fussing about debutantes and dinner parties, whereas Warner Brothers favored gritty dramas about everyday folks facing the Great Depression. The range of Hollywood’s ideology is narrow: Just as with the Cold War’s “communist threat,” so does today’s “terrorist threat” yield a bumper crop of movies about U.S. forces vs. evil nemeses. This familiar yet simplistic device of “good guy vs. bad guy” also is evident in westerns, crime dramas, horror films, etc. This course examines how movies distort the complexity of modern life as they reaffirm and sometimes revise the values which pervade U.S. popular culture. In each class we will watch a feature film and then critique it. Class limit 20. Register here.
Instructor William S. Solomon has taught Media Studies at Rutgers University and University of Illinois, as well as at Belfast Senior College and Coastal Senior College. He has worked for several newspapers and has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include media culture, media history, and the political economy of media.