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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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List of Figures

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List of Figures

Figure 1: The positioning of metatexts, texts, and subtexts in the scope of this analysis. Of importance is the question of how far the “Cinematic Reagan era” extends given the continuation of its constituent meta- and subtexts.

Figure 2: Anonymous and faceless government agents on the hunt for E.T.’s spaceship.

Figure 3: “This is my home!” Mary fails to protect her family from “big-government” intrusion.

Figure 4: The totalitarian takeover of suburbia begins with uniformed scientists marching through the streets at sunset—the perfect Reaganite nightmare.

Figure 5: “Be good.” Little Gertie (portrayed by Drew Barrymore) has learned her lesson in how to reunite the Reagan-era family.

Figure 6: Harvey Gilbert chases David Levinson, who is on his bicycle. The competitive drive of Levinson’s private cable company leads to the decoding of the alien signal. In this movie, it proves lucky for humanity that Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Figure 7: “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America.” President Whitmore’s desk in the Oval Office.

Figure 8: “If the woman can’t accept her subordination, she must be expelled from the narrative altogether …” Marilyn Whitmore calls her husband a liar one last time.

Figure 9: “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” The coastal metropolis may have suffered, but, in the end, so-called “Middle America” has stood its ground against the foreign invasion.

Figure 10: Rachel Dawes is held in a tight grip by the Joker. Her fearful expression is immediately succeeded by the Batman’s determined intervention.

Figure 11: Brought to you by GCN—different layers of corporate and terrorist media spectacles converge in this shot.

Figure 12: “Communism is neither an economic or a political system—it is a form of insanity—a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is ←341 | 342→contrary to human nature.” Reagan wrote this in his diary in 1975 (Kaufman, Robert G. 112–113). The irrationality of the so-called “free market” was again exposed in 2008 when large amounts of capital evaporated in virtually the same manner as in The Dark Knight.

Figure 13: Tony Stark arriving at Stark Tower with the Chrysler Building visible in the background. This is a fitting moment to recall the quote from Tyler Durden at the beginning of this section.

Figure 14: Loki during his attempt to usurp Stark Tower.

Figure 15: Natasha Romanoff closing the alien-invasion portal.

Figure 16: The ultimate “hard body” is on the side of the U.S.—the Hulk is beating Loki to a pulp.