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About decentered individuals on screen: an analysis of American fantasy films

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posted on 2023-08-30, 15:17 authored by Douglas E. Forster
As in so many other areas of American society, the political legacy of Ronald Reagan had an imposing presence in many contemporary American films, particularly between 1980 and 2000. Six films, which collectively represent the spectrum of Reaganism’s most popular tropes, demonstrate quite compellingly that in celebrating nostalgically the blissful pleasantries of family stability and social order so essential to Reagan’s political philosophy, an unsettling and unsatisfying mythology has been created about a period in which many Americans were acutely aware that something was missing, even if they could not pinpoint it at the time. This leads the critical viewer to largely unacknowledged subtexts in all six films that begin to reveal the contradictions, incoherencies, and paradoxes rooted in popular Reaganesque portrayals. Utilising a detailed qualitative case study methodology, this thesis incorporates theoretical foundations that expand upon Fairclough’s pathbreaking research on media discourse and Todorov’s broadly articulated framework of fantasy in order to explore: 1) Which elements of Fairclough’s framework for critical discourse analysis can be applied to explore the discursive structures within these American fantasy films? 2) In how far do the films follow Reaganist concepts of a ‘new’ American society? 3) In how far do notions of the ‘fantastic’ and postmodern concepts break with common patterns of Reaganism reflected in these films? While many critics rightly cite the numerous elements in these films that appear to reinforce fundamental message points underlying Reaganism, this study demonstrates how the films’ characters and plot lines also serve to reveal the inherent and irreconcilable incoherence of the sociopolitical and sociocultural tenets of Reaganism.



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