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Echoes of Reaganism in Hollywood Blockbuster Movies from the 1980s to the 2010s


Ilias Ben Mna

This book examines the reverberations of key components of Ronald Reagan’s ideology in selected Hollywood blockbuster movies. The aim of this analysis is to provide a clearer understanding of the intertwinement of cinematic spectacles with neoliberalism and neoconservatism. The analysis comprises a dissection of Reagan’s presidential rhetoric and the examination of four seminal Hollywood blockbuster movies. The time range for analysis stretches from the 1980s until the 2010s. Among the key foci are filmic content as well as production and distribution contexts. It is concluded that Reagan’s political metaphors and the corporatization of film studios in the 1970s and 1980s continue to shape much of Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking.

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Blockbusters and Reaganism

The Long Shadow of the 1980s

How to Trace Ideology in Blockbusters?

Focal Points for Analysis

Why Does Reaganism in Blockbusters Matter?

Chapter 1 Tracing Echoes in Film

Chapter Overview

The Case for the Continued Reaganization of Hollywood Blockbusters

The Media Spectacle According to Douglas Kellner

The Hollywood “Hard Body” According to Susan Jeffords

George Lakoff’s “Strict Father Model” as a Political Framing Device

Roland Barthes’ Concept of Mythologies as a Tool for Deconstructing Capitalist Imagery

Defining Hollywood Blockbusters as a Formula

Key Ideological and Methodological Terms



Messianic Americanism


Potentials and Limitations

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Chapter 2 Key Myths and Metaphors in Reagan’s Rhetoric

Chapter Overview

The “Small-Government” Metaphor

The “Star Wars” Program as a Pop Culture Invocation for Cold War Rearmament

Counter-Terrorism as “War” against the Other

The White Male Entrepreneur as Mythical Hero for the Nation

Chapter 3 E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial as a Reaganite “Small-Government Fable”

Introduction and Chapter Overview

Hollywood Studios at Heaven’s Gate: The Production Background of E.T.

Film Analysis

The Dystopian Nature of Government and Bureaucracy in E.T.

The Restoration of the Father through White, Male, Middle-Class Individualism

The Pop Cultural Legacy of E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial

Chapter 4 The Recycling of Reagan’s Cold War Rhetoric in Independence Day

Introduction and Chapter Overview

When Disaster Strikes at the Box Office: The Production Background of Independence Day

Film Analysis

Technological Superiority in Outer Space as an Expression of US-American Hegemony

The Role of “Messianic Americanism” in Defeating the Other

The Pop Cultural Legacy of Independence Day

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Chapter 5 The Dark Knight as an Echo Chamber for Reaganite Counter-Terrorism Rhetoric

Introduction and Chapter Overview

A New Class of Criminals: The Production Background of The Dark Knight

Film Analysis

“War on Terror” and “Terror War” in The Dark Knight

“Terror” Is What Others Do: Racial Otherness in The Dark Knight and in Neoconservative Rhetoric

The Pop Cultural Legacy of The Dark Knight

Chapter 6 Hard-Bodied Entrepreneurialism in The Avengers

Introduction and Chapter Overview

The Superhero (Formula) Keeps Coming Back: The Production Background of The Avengers

Film Analysis

Entrepreneurialism and National Defense in The Avengers

Gendered “Hard Bodies” in Times of War

The Pop Cultural Legacy of The Avengers

Conclusions and Outlook

Main Conclusions and their Relevance for Contemporary Discussions

Implications for Blockbuster Movies as a Formula

From Ronald to Donald: When Blockbuster Logic Meets Political Spectacles

List of Figures


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