Of Voices, Visions, and Agents: Cultural Hegemony and the Spectacle of U.S. Empire in Contemporary Hollywood Film
Krebs, Nicholas Daniel
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Discussing the cultural systems and their commodities that circulate, shape, and maintain U.S. empire, this project focuses on contemporary Hollywood films from 1977 to the present, and reveals the stories, lessons, and instructions they depict at the behest of U.S. empire. Considering contemporary Hollywood films as a place where hearts and minds are won, this project examines the relationship between the values and ideas that are represented, taught, and critiqued on screen with the values of U.S. empire. Buttressing both sides of the new millennium, films from the last four decades provide a unique opportunity to discuss how consumers build and maintain a tenuous relationship with their fellow consumers from around the world with whom they may never come into contact, but with whom they share similar values. Analyzing both the coercive power of contemporary Hollywood films as well as their ability to gain the consent of their consumers, this project identifies how U.S. empire is able to control ideas of what it is, has been, and can become. Chapter one introduces three tropes—the voice, vision, and agent of U.S. empire—alongside three actors—Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Will Smith—and what I call the U.S. imperial gaze, a mechanism that U.S. empire uses to get audience members who consume contemporary Hollywood films to embrace the values they depict on screen in the real world. Chapter two focuses on the Harry Potter franchise, and expands my conversation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” from the first chapter by considering what I call the Anglo-Saxon burden and the larger racial project of whiteness that expands beyond borders as a cultural binding agent. Chapter three brings the writings of Antonio Gramsci to the fore, and reads The Hunger Games series as a representation of Gramsci’s crisis of authority, war of position, and war of manoeuvre. Chapter four argues that the Force in Star Wars, the most popular film franchise of all time, and a franchise that spans the entire time period covered by this project, is best understood via a phenomenology of perception.