Projecting the End of the American Dream

Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline

by Gordon B. Arnold

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Cover image for Projecting the End of the American Dream

April 2013


Pages 279
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Film

This provocative book reveals how Hollywood films reflect our deepest fears and anxieties as a country, often recording our political beliefs and cultural conditions while underscoring the darker side of the American way of life.

Long before the war in Iraq and the economic crises of the early 21st century, Hollywood has depicted a grim view of life in the United States, one that belies the prosperity and abundance of the so-called American Dream. While the country emerged from World War II as a world power, collectively our sense of security had been threatened. The result is a cinematic body of work that has America's decline and ruin as a central theme. The author draws from popular films across all genres and six decades to illustrate how the political climate of the times influenced their creation.

Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline combines film history, social history, and political history to reveal important themes in the unfolding American narrative. Discussions focus on a wide variety of films, including Rambo, Planet of the Apes, and Easy Rider.


  • Presents examples of Hollywood's self-censorship doctrine—from the Motion Picture Production Code to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film-rating system
  • Traces the evolution of American identity on film
  • Reveals the government's interest in Hollywood movie-making, including the active role federal agents played in the film industry after September 11
  • Analyzes a broad selection of films from the last 60 years and across genres
Author Info

Gordon B. Arnold, PhD, is professor of liberal arts at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA. His previous publications include Praeger's Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics and The Politics of Faculty Unionization: The Experience of Three New England Universities, as well as The Afterlife of America's War in Vietnam: Changing Visions in Politics and On Screen.



"Written free of jargon and pretension . . . Arnold adeptly manages to capture the most influential films representing each decade. . . . Recommended."Choice

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