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America on Film


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi How to Use This Book xvi Part I Culture and American Film 1 1 Introduction to the Study of Film Form and Representation 3 Film Form 3 American Ideologies: Discrimination and Resistance 6 Culture and Cultural Studies 12 Case Study: The Lion King (1994) 17 Questions for Discussion 20 Further Reading 20 2 The Structure and History of Hollywood Filmmaking 21 Hollywood vs. Independent Film 21 The Style of Hollywood Cinema 23 The Business of Hollywood 28 The History of Hollywood: The Movies Begin 30 The Classical Hollywood Cinema 34 World War II and Postwar Film 37 "New" Hollywood and the Blockbuster Mentality 40 Questions for Discussion 43 Further Reading 43 Further Screening 44 Part II Race and Ethnicity and American Film 45 Introduction to Part II: What is Race? 3 The Concept of Whiteness and American Film 51 Seeing White 52 Bleaching the Green: The Irish in American Cinema 56 Looking for Respect: Italians in American Cinema 60 A Special Case: Jews and Hollywood 65 Case Study: The Jazz Singer (1927) 68 Veiled and Reviled: Arabs on Film in America 70 Conclusion: Whiteness and American Film Today 76 Questions for Discussion 77 Further Reading 77 Further Screening 77 4 African Americans and American Film 78 African Americans in Early Film 78 Blacks in Classical Hollywood Cinema 82 World War II and the Postwar Social Problem Film 85 The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation Filmmaking 88 Box: Blacks on TV 90 Hollywood in the 1980s and the Arrival of Spike Lee 90 Black Independent vs. "Neo-Blaxploitation" Filmmaking 93 New Images for a New Century - Or Not? 95 Case Study: Bamboozled (2000) 98 Questions for Discussion 100 Further Reading 100 Further Screening 101 5 Native Americans and American Film 102 The American "Indian" Before Film 103 Ethnographic Films and the Rise of the Hollywood Western 105 The Evolving Western 110 A Kinder, Gentler America? 115 Case Study: Smoke Signals (1998) 118 Conclusion: Twenty-First-Century Indians? 121 Questions for Discussion 122 Further Reading 122 Further Screening 122 6 Asian Americans and American Film 123 Silent Film and Asian Images 124 Asians in Classical Hollywood Cinema 126 World War II and After: War Films, Miscegenation Melodramas, and Kung Fu 130 Contemporary Asian American Actors and Filmmakers 134 Case Study: Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989) 140 Questions for Discussion 142 Further Reading 142 Further Screening 142 7 Latinos and American Film 143 The Greaser and the Latin Lover: Alternating Stereotypes 145 World War II and After: The Good Neighbor Policy 148 The 1950s to the 1970s: Back to Business as Usual? 152 Expanding Opportunities in Recent Decades 154 Conclusion: A Backlash Against Chicanos? 159 Case Study: My Family/Mi Familia (1995) 160 Questions for Discussion 163 Further Reading 163 Further Screening 163 Part III Class and American Film 165 Introduction to Part III: What is Class? 8 Classical Hollywood Cinema and Class 171 Setting the Stage: The Industrial Revolution 171 Early Cinema: The Rise of the Horatio Alger Myth 173 Hollywood and Unionization 178 Class in the Classical Hollywood Cinema 180 Case Study: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 184 Conclusion: Recloaking Class Consciousness 186 Questions for Discussion 186 Further Reading 186 Further Screening 186 9 Cinematic Class Struggle After the Depression 187 From World War II to the Red Scare 187 From Opulence to Counterculture 191 Box: Class on Television 196 New Hollywood and the Resurrection of the Horatio Alger Myth 198 Case Study: Bulworth (1998) 204 Conclusion: Corporate Hollywood and Labor Today 204 Questions for Discussion 208 Further Reading 208 Further Screening 209 Part IV Gender and American Film 211 Introduction to Part IV: What is Gender? 10 Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking 217 Images of Women in Early Cinema 218 Early Female Filmmakers 222 Images of Women in 1930s Classical Hollywood 227 World War II and After 231 Case Study: All that Heaven Allows (1955) 234 Questions for Discussion 236 Further Reading 237 Further Screening 237 11 Exploring the Visual Parameters of Women in Film 238 Ways of Seeing 238 "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" 242 Case Study: Gilda (1946) 250 Conclusion: Complicating Mulvey's Arguments 253 Questions for Discussion 255 Further Reading 255 Further Screening 256 12 Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking 257 Masculinity and Early Cinema 260 Masculinity and the Male Movie Star 262 World War II and Film Noir 267 Case Study: Dead Reckoning (1947) 272 Masculinity in 1950s American Film 274 Questions for Discussion 277 Further Reading 277 Further Screening 277 13 Gender in American Film Since the 1960s 278 Second Wave Feminism and Hollywood 278 Into the 1980s: A Backlash against Women? 283 Box: Women and American Television 284 A New Generation of Female Filmmakers 291 Case Study: The Ballad of Little Jo (1993) 296 Conclusion: Gender in the Early Twenty-First Century 296 Questions for Discussion 301 Further Reading 301 Further Screening 302 Part V Sexuality and American Film 303 Introduction to Part V: What is Sexuality? 14 Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Classical Hollywood 309 (Hetero)Sexuality on Screen 309 (Homo)Sexuality in Early Film 311 Censoring Sexuality during the Classical Hollywood Era 314 Postwar Sexualities and the Weakening of the Production Code 319 Camp and the Underground Cinema 324 Case Study: The Celluloid Closet (1995) 326 Questions for Discussion 328 Further Reading 328 Further Screening 328 15 Sexualities on Film Since the Sexual Revolution 329 Hollywood and the Sexual Revolution 329 Film and Gay Culture from Stonewall to AIDS 331 The AIDS Crisis 336 Queer Theory and New Queer Cinema 339 Box: Queer TV 340 Case Study: Go Fish (1995) 347 Hollywood Responds to New Queer Cinema 347 (Hetero)Sexualities in Contemporary American Cinema 352 Questions for Discussion 354 Further Reading 354 Further Screening 355 Part VI Ability and American Film 357 Introduction to Part VI: What is Ability? 16 Cinematic Images of (Dis)Ability 363 Disabled People in Early American Film: Curiosities and Freaks 364 Romanticizing Disability in Classical Hollywood Melodramas 368 Disability in War Movies and Social Problem Films 370 Disability and the Counterculture 374 Case Study: Children of a Lesser God (1986) 378 A More Enlightened Age? 380 Questions for Discussion 384 Further Reading 384 Further Screening 384 17 Making Connections 385 Case Study 1: Queen Christina (1933) 386 Case Study 2: The Old Maid (1939) 388 Case Study 3: The Gang's All Here (1943) 390 Case Study 4: A Patch of Blue (1965) 392 Case Study 5: Erin Brockovich (2000) 394 Case Study 6: 8 Mile (2002) 396 Case Study 7: Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) 398 Case Study 8: Saving Face (2004) 400 Case Study 9: Crash (2004) 402 Case Study 10: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) 404 Case Study 11: Brokeback Mountain (2005) 406 Case Study 12: Quinceanera (2006) 408 Glossary 410 Index 432

About the Author

Harry M. Benshoff is Associate Professor of Radio, Television, and Film at the University of North Texas. Sean Griffin is Associate Professor of Cinema and Television at Southern Methodist University.


"Concluding each chapter are discussion questions and lists of further reading and relevant films. Particularly valuable are the 28 two-page case studies (e.g., of Lion King , Jazz Singer , Grapes of Wrath , Gilda , Celluloid Closet , Crash , Brokeback Mountain ) scattered throughout. These analyze the films in terms of culture group. A model of sociological criticism and an invaluable tool (in classroom or library) for film students." ( CHOICE , August 2009) " America on Film is a different kind of film studies textbook. It's an invaluable resource for classes examining the politics of Hollywood." Ted Friedman, Associate Professor of Moving Image Studies, Georgia State University "The authors do a remarkable job at presenting contexts for identifying and tracking the historical constructions of race, gender, class and sexuality ... They successfully present a rich history, with references to hundreds of films." Scope Journal " America on Film provides a clear and expansive examination of the complexities of representation and identity in American cinema. I currently use Benshoff and Griffin's book in my introductory film class on multiculturalism, and I look forward to using this new edition." Vicki Callahan , University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee "In this era of diversity, American on Film is a great resource that clarifies critical concepts of inequality and illustrates how film representations can frame groups thus providing tools for thinking critically about the media we consume." Elizabeth Higginbotham, University of Delaware " America on Film does what no other film textbook does: it takes its investigation of film beyond a study of form, production and exhibition, exposing how film functions as a powerful cultural agent for shaping American perceptions of race, gender, class and ability." Alison Landsberg, George Mason University

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