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Hollywood Raises Political Consciousness

Political Messages in Feature Films

Edited By Michael Haas

Feature films are jam-packed with political messages. This volume provides the tools for analyzing the politics embedded in films. Contributors reveal how subliminal messages are a clue to how the public perceives political reality through otherwise entertaining feature films.
The volume is divided into two parts: Part One focuses on defining political films while Part Two looks at how «politics» is defined within films. Contributors find several ways of defining «political films», but agree that while the messages in films may often seem progressive, they are usually quite conservative, with the aim of making as much money as possible for the people financing the films.
The book provides a history of political film and identifies several hundred films with specific political messages.
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4 The Real Oliver North Loses: The Reel Bob Roberts Wins


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The Real Oliver North Loses: The Reel Bob Roberts Wins

John W. Williams

Does Life Imitate Art?

The present chapter is primarily about the elections involving three candidates for the United States Senate—Bill McKay, Bob Roberts, and Oliver North. The first two candidates are fictions of the Hollywood film industry, although they are convincing. The third candidate could have been fiction, an invention of a very creative screenwriter. They ran, respectively, in California in the early 1970s, in Pennsylvania in 1990, and in Virginia in 1994. This chapter is about the reality of their stories. The three stories are supplemented with a brief mention of a fourth candidate, Rick Santorum, who ran successfully for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 1994, was defeated for reelection in 2006, and ran for president in 2012.

Constructing Reality

The theoretical perspective known as “social constructionism” goes beyond the argument that media, in this instance film, informs us of reality. The perspective argues that the experience of consuming media, watching a film in a movie theater for example, is itself a process of constructing reality. Kenneth Boulding (1956:14) argued “for any individual organism or organization, there are no such things as ‘facts.’ There are only messages filtered through a changeable value system.” For Murray Edelman (1988:34), media help “construct a social reality to which people respond.” James Anderson and Timothy Meyers (1988:47) expanded this view...

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