Media has an innate ability to construct identities, both for ourselves and for the “other.” Given Hollywood’s exceptional role as an American primary cultural institution, its power in this construction is not to be underrated, although it often is. Representations of a friend or a foe that flow through Hollywood usually fit a formulaic equation with predetermined political outcomes.
The Russian experience provides a rich case study of this phenomenon. It exemplifies how Hollywood cements the image of the “other,” in opposition to which America always appears to be standing tall. Just take Air Force One (1997) – six years after the end of communism and the Kremlin’s firm pro-Western course, a Russian nationalist psycho hijacks the plane of the US president (Harrison Ford) in order to overthrow post-Soviet democracies. Recent films such as a historical drama Bridge of Spies (2015), directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, further exemplify how little the American perception of the Russian “enemy” has changed.
Of course, Russia is not alone. China, Cuba, Iran and others, too, have been prominent media bogeymen. Since the Cold War, and in response to the US-led War on Terror in the 2000s, we have also witnessed the emergence of a Communist “linguistic twin,” radical Islamism. International contexts, often absent in American domestic narratives, offer the other side of the story.
Today marks the midpoint of the semester-long symposium, Hollywood and the New Cold War, curated by Professor Nina Khrushcheva and MA candidate Gabrielle Belli. Along with media and political experts, New School Professors Anthony Anemone, Sean Jacobs, and Peter Lucas have been screening visually stunning, award-winning films to bridge the gap between politics and culture through the media.
On March 29, Professor Peter Lucas screens and distills (1957), a devastatingly beautiful USSR war film, and on April 26, Professor Sean Jacobs will screen Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution (2013) a revolution film from Grenada, followed by a discussion of the Caribbean context. During the final event on May 11, Professor Nina Khrushcheva will moderate a discussion among media-political experts Eliot Borenstein and Todd Gitlin to canvass the perpetual feedback loop of “otherness.” When politics disappear from the headlines, we can count on Hollywood to craft and continue the narrative.
As Professor Khrushcheva always says, “Culture never lies about politics.”
For event details, please click here.