Conception refers to the idea of making a film. Films that originate in an individual artistic vision
are more likely to contain overt and/or intentional political messages.
• Hiring the major creative talents
• Maintaining a presence during the shooting of a movie
• Ultimate authority on the project
Movie’s producer is to ensure its financial viability. They answer to the studio or production
Films are a commodity intended to make money. Movie production is somehow biased toward
films espousing a conservative, patriotic, and even nationalistic viewpoint, there is by no means
agreement on that point among observers of the film industry.
Most critics and scholars would agree that most movies are indeed produced on the basis of
their ability to make their investors money.
Although message movies hardly ever rank as blockbusters, many have actually turned a
handsome profit. So producers clearly do not reject political films out of hand.
Movies are probably most effective when they let us reach our own conclusions or at least let us
think we have.
Many early westerns affirm the basic goodness of early America while depicting Native
Americans as savages whose defeat was just and appropriate.
Personalization: political subject matter frequently focus on the individual drama of politically
Sugar-coating: Reds – a love story, Enemy of the State – conventional thriller.
The unlabeled bottle: allowing the audience to read its own interpretation into the story.
Ambivalence: present both sides of a political conflict with an even hand.
The requirement to entertain is why American political films only deal with one problem at a
time. A single issue may be simplified so much that the outcome is obvious.
Direction The actual duties perhaps overlap with those of the producer. They deal with choice of shots,
camera angles, lighting, light filters, composition, and editing as well as major costume and set
design decisions. The greatest movies are dominated by the personal vision of the director.
Realism is a filmmaking style that seeks to imitate or duplicate reality. Formalism, by contrast,
emphasizes aesthetic forms and symbols rather than objective reality.
Directors may be central figures, but many creative people, including writers, producers,
cinematographers, editors, designers, and actors, contribute to the final shape of a film. The
politics of these individuals may differ, and their perceptions of what audiences want to see,
need to be told, or will accept also may vary.
Patriotic tunes arouse our emotions, and martial music sets the adrenaline flowing, building
Extensive use of editing is usually associated with formalism. Means of manipulating time and
space in a movie that, although inherently unrealistic, can effectively convey complicated
narratives… as well as political messages.
Different kinds of composition help transmit political messages.
1. The dominant object
2. The camera angles
3. The distance of the camera
4. Colours and lighting
5. Distortion by use of lenses
6. Density or complexity
7. Character placement
8. Framing of the images
Some directors, however, use products as an additional nod toward realism. The product’s lowly
status seems to reinforce the working-class antiauthoritarianism.
Viewing Visual and sound quality does make it even more likely that more films will have the opportunity
to affect the minds of the American public. Every film that deals even peripherally with politics
contributes to our political socialization – that is, our familiarity with the political system and our
understanding of the part we play in it.
Films do not make big changes, but they can make people feel a little, discuss a little. The
political message of a movie may be played down to avoid offending any major segment of the
diverse American audience or it may be moderated so that as many people as possible will
agree with it and buy tickets.
Political Environment of Film
These movies portraying foreign danger were intended to shore up popular support for
American war efforts and might be viewed as propaganda. So these films reflected the political
reality of the times, but also were intended to affect it.
Did this movie somehow inspire President Bush or his staff to re-create the scene and somehow
profit politically from the resemblance?
Red Scare: HUAC and Hollywood
HUAC – House Un-American Activities Committee
Hollywood really was a center of liberal and even Communist political activity. Dozens of the film
workers were jailed, defined by their refusal to testify against their friends. Others were focused
to inform on friends and coworkers to save their own careers.
It became virtually impossible to bankroll a film with a leftist message. The blacklist was
eventually broken, and eventually many of those who had been demonized by the Red Scare
were recognized as heroes by the Hollywood community.
The entire episode marked a watershed for American films, transforming them from frequently
progressive and artistically challenging vehicles to vacuous and politically toothless husks.
Censorship and Regulation
Film industry was dominated by immigrants and Jews “the struggle over movies was an aspect
of the struggle between classes.” Hays Code were a primary reasons for the near
disappearance of social and political criticism from a once-progressive mainstream film industry.
The code was nevertheless, on the whole, a highly effective means of limiting creative
Political Involvement by Hollywood Celebrities and the Film Industry
Wayne became president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals,
a group that had helped create the Red Scare by inviting HUAC to investigate Hollywood. In the
1960’s Wayne joined the right-wing John Birch Society, a group that claimed that the U.S.
government was secretly run by Communists. Sinatra sang for Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson at a large election-eve rally
and was a close friend and ardent supporter of John F. Kennedy.
Sinatra was occasionally an embarrassment to those he supported, his advocacy of candidates
and causes proved to the rest of the entertainment world that such involvement was not
anathema to commercial success.
Democratic Party has received significantly more donations from the film industry specifically.
Democratic candidates received 87 percent of the 46 million from the movie production industry.
They can use their status to pursue their political goals much more easily than average citizens.
Actors as Politicians
Politicians increasingly seem to need to be able to demonstrate their acting ability in order to
succeed. Michael Rogin argues that Ronald Reagan’s entire presidency was a kind of re-
enactment of his movie roles.
The view of political scientists James Combs and Sara Combs: that the motion picture must be
accorded a central role in the expansion of popular learning.
Schwarzenegger believes that acting and political leadership overlap significantly: You have to
connect with the people, and the more organic you are… that what then makes people buy in.
Propaganda and Military
Propaganda is defined as “material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine
or cause” in the dictionary. Combs note that the movies had proven to be powerful stuff, and
now that power was available to anyone who wanted to propagate a social or political message.
World was 2 created the need for another movie to sell the American public on the need for war.
The cold war opened up new avenues of government-sponsored propagandistic filmmaking.
PSA officers had to overcome filmmakers’ sense of our meddling in their product and our sense
that they weren’t taking us seriously. Marine Corps successfully “convinced” the producer of
Windtakers to delete a historically accurate scene in which a Marine pries gold teeth from the
mouth of a dead Japanese soldier.
Thus, the distinction between censorship and propaganda is sometimes blurred.
Centralization of the Film Industry
The corporate control of the movie industry goes far beyond mere ownership of the studios.
Viacom, for example, owns Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster Video and co-owns United
Cinemas with another conglomerate.
Corporate owners may skew film production toward politically safe themes and content. This
would effectively constitute corporate censorship of the entertainment industry. This effect is a
fait accompli. Corporate control of distribution and exhibition is on the rapid increase. Earning studio level
gross profits has become a near necessity in the new economics of independent films, which
now requires a significant infrastructure to accommodate increased demand.
The significant, and distinguished, output of publications on both Soviet and Nazi cinema and
propaganda in the last two decades suggests that there are some grounds for optimism.
Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany are the two best documented examples of highly and overtly
politicised societies that the world has ever seen.
Propaganda and Film
Propaganda becomes what the enemy engages in, while one’s own propaganda parades under
the disguise of information or publicity. Propaganda is concerned with the transmission of ideas
and/or values from one person, a group or persons, to another.
If individuals are controlled through the use of suggestion then that may be called propaganda.
If a result is obtained with or without the aid of a suggestion may be called education.
Mackenzie’s definition: Propaganda is an attempt, either unconsciously or as part of a
systematic campaign by an individual or group holding certain beliefs or desired ends, to
influence others to adopt identical attitudes. An attempt of this nature must be both conscious
and deliberate: there must be a purpose. Without purpose propaganda can have no aim and no
direction, and without direction it can have no distinctive political function separating it from
other social and political activities.
The absence of conclusive proof of purpose is not of course synonymous with the absence of
purpose itself. If then, we insist upon the importance of purpose in discussions of the nature of
‘propaganda’, we must dismiss the possibility that ‘propaganda’ can be either unintentional or
If we accept that purpose is of prime importance in the definition of ‘propaganda’, then it is worth
asking whose purpose is important and, by extension, who the propagandist really is – the
technician or his political master? Is the propagandist the originator of the idea or the man who
puts the idea into practical effect?
Words are our basic means of communication and in the course of their usage they acquire
associations that the ‘propagandist’ can and must draw upon as part of his anatomy. It cannot
create opinion out of a void, but it can build upon what is already there.
The propagandist uses all the weapons that are available to him at a given time and in a given
Propaganda is promotion which is veiled in one way or another as to
1. Its origins or sources, 2. The interests involved
3. The methods employed
4. The content spread, and
5. The results accruing to the victims –
Any one, any two, any three, any four, or all five.
One of the guiding principles for the successful ‘propagandist’ is surely to make the attitudes
that he wishes to spread appear as uncontroversial as possible. Propaganda is the attempt to
influence the public opinions of an audience through the transmission of ideas and values.
Propaganda is directed at exerting an effect on public opinion or, more correctly, on the public
opinions of individuals.
The cost of producing and distributing a film, as compared for instance with a poster or printed
leaflet, was enormous and required vast capital energy.
AFTER THE MIDTERM
Reading: Who is heard? Varieties of Representation
• democracy in the age of mass society is necessarily representative, the individual can
accomplish little in today’s political world…behind every individual lies an organization
providing expertise, financial banking, communications support, transportation and so on
• parties have become so necessary because they perform a variety of functions central to
the political process-some that are performed consciously and some that are by-products of
the activates that parties engage in
• parties can be agents of socialization for the broader population and for organizations
that recruit and groom future political leaders
• political parties serve at least 3 masters…
1) their leaders
2) their members
3) broader public
• mobilization function: rounding up support for leaders
• political party has relatively unique status as a bridge between civil society and the state,
where it is a fundamental institution in the electoral system
• this unique status is reflected in three functions
1) mobilization for its leaders and candidates
2) representation for its members
3) supports and administration for the political process
• in real world, it’s possible that electoral success may depend on practices or strategies
that are contrary to good representation • parties presentations in today’s world can be technologically sophisticated but superficial
with respect to their issue content
• the challenge of democracy is to assemble the support of a majority of citizens for public
policy and within pluralistic societies (societies that accept people with different backgrounds,
religions and political views) this requires building a coalition out of diverse interests and
• brokerage parties: a party that attempts to bridge the societal cleavages by
accommodating a broad alliance of supporters; these parties seek to build support from very
diverse sources within society
• Canada’s brokerage parties:
1) recreate coalitions at each election
2) constantly compete for the same policy space and the same voters
3) present voters with appeals to narrow interest and proposals that tinker with existing
arrangement, rather than a clear choice between worldviews and the political projects that
follow from them
4) practice inconsistency as they search for electorally successful formulas
5) organize around leaders rather than around political principles and ideologies
• These reasons have led many to conclude that brokerage parties function poorly as
agents of representation
• The brokerage party courts everyone and if it does so with policy, this means promising
something to each interest it hopes to represent which increases the likelihood that its
promises are not consistent
• Implication is that brokerage parties success electorally but fail at providing good
representation to citizens
• In 1956, Neumann distinguished between the party of individual representation
(“characteristic of a society with a restricted political domain and only a limited degree of
participation…membership activity is…limited to balloting, and the party organization…if
existent at all-is dormant between elections period”) and the party of integration (which
“demands not only permanent dues-paying membership…but, above all, an increasing
influence over all spheres of the individuals daily life…)
• Brokerage parties in No