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America on Film Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2021-04-20
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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A comprehensive and insightful examination of the representation of diverse viewpoints and perspectives in American cinema throughout the 20th and 21st centuries

America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies, now in its third edition, is an authoritative and lively examination of diversity issues within American cinema. Celebrated authors and academics Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin provide readers with a comprehensive discussion and overview of the industrial, socio-cultural, and aesthetic factors that contribute to cinematic representations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability.

The book incorporates several different theoretical perspectives, including film genre, auteurism, cultural studies, Orientalism, the "male gaze," feminism, and queer theory. The authors examine each selected subject via representative films, figures, and movements. Each chapter also includes an in-depth analysis of a single film to illuminate and inform its discussion of the chosen topic.

America on Film fearlessly approaches and tackles several controversial areas of representation in film, including the portrayal of both masculinity and femininity in film and African- and Asian-Americans in film. It devotes the entirety of Part V to an analysis of the depiction of sex and sexuality in American film, with a particular emphasis on the portrayal of homosexuality. Topics covered include:

  • The structure and history of American filmmaking, including a discussion of the evolution of the business of Hollywood cinema
  • African Americans and American film, with a discussion of BlacKkKlansman informing its examination of broader issues
  • Asian, Latin/x, and Native Americans on film
  • Classical Hollywood cinema and class, with an in-depth examination of The Florida Project
  • Women in classical Hollywood filmmaking, including a discussion of the 1955 film, All that Heaven Allows

Perfect for undergraduate and graduate students in film, media, and diversity-related courses, the book also belongs on the shelves of anyone interested in diversity issues in the context of American studies, communications, history, or gender studies. Lastly, it's ideal for use within corporate diversity training curricula and human relations training within the entertainment industry.

Author Biography

Harry M. Benshoff is Professor of Media Arts at the University of North Texas. He received his PhD in Critical Studies at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His research focuses include the representation of African Americans and queer people in film and television, particularly within the horror genre.

Sean Griffin is Professor in the Division of Film and Media Arts at Southern Methodist University. He received his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1997. He has written and studied extensively in the area of queer representation in film, as well as the history of the American musical film.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition xi

Acknowledgments xiv

How to Use This Book xvi

About the Companion Website xviii

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: Two Lion Kings (1994 and 2019) 17

Questions for Discussion 21

Further Reading 21

2 The Structure and History of Hollywood Filmmaking 22

Hollywood vs. Independent Film 22

The Style of Hollywood Cinema 24

The Business of Hollywood 29

The History of Hollywood: The Movies Begin 31

The Classical Hollywood Cinema 35

World War II and Postwar Film 37

“New” Hollywood and the Blockbuster Mentality 40

Box: A Brief History of Television in the United States 42

21st‐Century Convergence Culture 44

Questions for Discussion 47

Further Reading 47

Further Screening 48

Part II Race and Ethnicity and American Film 49

Introduction to Part II: What is Race?

3 The Concept of Whiteness and American Film 55

Seeing White 56

Bleaching the Green: The Irish in American Cinema 60

Looking for Respect: Italians in American Cinema 64

A Special Case: Jews and Hollywood 69

Case Study: The Jazz Singer (1927) 74

Veiled and Reviled: Arabs on Film in America 74

Conclusion: Whiteness and American Film Today 80

Questions for Discussion 81

Further Reading 81

Further Screening 82

4 African Americans and American Film 83

African Americans in Early Film 83

Blacks in Classical Hollywood Cinema 87

World War II and the Postwar Social Problem Film 89

The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation Filmmaking 92

Box: Blacks on TV 94

Hollywood in the 1980s and the Arrival of Spike Lee 96

Black Independent vs. “Neo‐Blaxploitation” Filmmaking in the 1990s 98

African Americans and the Oscars 100

Case Study: BlacKkKlansman (2018) 103

The Twenty‐first Century: Smaller Films, Bigger Profits? 106

Conclusion 108

Questions for Discussion 109

Further Reading 109

Further Screening 110

5 Native Americans and American Film 111

The American “Indian” Before Film 112

Ethnographic Films and the Rise of the Hollywood Western 114

The Evolving Western 118

A Kinder, Gentler America? 121

Case Study: Smoke Signals (1998) 124

Conclusion: Twenty‐first Century Indians? 125

Questions for Discussion 129

Further Reading 129

Further Screening 129

6 Asian Americans and American Film 130

Silent Film and Asian Images 131

Asians in Classical Hollywood Cinema 133

World War II and After: War Films, Miscegenation

Melodramas, Kung Fu, and the Start of Asian American

Independent Filmmaking 136

Towards a Global Hollywood: Asian American Actors

and Filmmakers of the Last Thirty Years 141

Case Study: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) 146

Conclusion 148

Questions for Discussion 148

Further Reading 148

Further Screening 149

7 Latinos and American Film 150

The Greaser and the Latin Lover: Alternating Stereotypes 152

World War II and After: The Good Neighbor Policy 155

The 1950s to the 1970s: Back to Business as Usual? 159

Expanding Opportunities in the 1980s and 1990s 161

Case Study: My Family/Mi Familia (1995) 164

Latino Film in the 21st Century 166

Conclusion: Which Way Forward? 169

Questions for Discussion 171

Further Reading 172

Further Screening 172

Part III Class and American Film 173

Introduction to Part III: What is Class?

8 Classical Hollywood Cinema and Class 179

Setting the Stage: The Industrial Revolution 179

Early Cinema: The Rise of the Horatio

Alger Myth 181

Hollywood and Unionization 185

Class in the Classical Hollywood Cinema 188

Case Study: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 190

Conclusion: Recloaking Class Consciousness 192

Questions for Discussion 192

Further Reading 193

Further Screening 193

9 Cinematic Class Struggle After the Depression 194

From World War II to the Red Scare 194

From Opulence to Counterculture 197

Box: Class on Television 202

New Hollywood and the Resurrection of the Horatio Alger Myth 202

Corporate Hollywood and Labor in the 21st Century 208

Case Study: The Florida Project (2017) 213

Questions for Discussion 215

Further Reading 215

Further Screening 215

Part IV Gender and American Film 217

Introduction to Part IV: What is Gender?

10 Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking 223

Images of Women in Early Cinema 224

Early Female Filmmakers 228

Images of Women in 1930s Classical Hollywood 231

World War II and After 235

Case Study: All that Heaven Allows (1955) 238

Questions for Discussion 240

Further Reading 240

Further Screening 241

11 Exploring the Visual Parameters of Women in Film 242

Ways of Seeing 242

“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” 245

Case Study: Gilda (1946) 254

Conclusion: Complicating Mulvey’s Arguments 255

Questions for Discussion 258

Further Reading 258

Further Screening 258

12 Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking 259

Masculinity and Early Cinema 262

Masculinity and the Male Movie Star 263

World War II and Film Noir 268

Case Study: Dead Reckoning (1947) 273

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

Box: Women and American Television 282

Into the 1980s: A Backlash against Women? 285

A New Generation of Female Filmmakers 288

Gender at the Turn of the Century 292

Gender Politics after 9/11 294

Case Study: Wonder Woman (2017) 297

Questions for Discussion 299

Further Reading 300

Further Screening 300

Part V Sexuality and American Film 301

Introduction to Part V: What is Sexuality?

14 Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Classical Hollywood 307

(Hetero)Sexuality on Screen 307

(Homo)Sexuality in Early Film 309

Censoring Sexuality during the Classical Hollywood Era 311

Postwar Sexualities and the Weakening of the Production Code 316

Camp and the Underground Cinema 320

Case Study: The Celluloid Closet (1995) 322

Questions for Discussion 323

Further Reading 324

Further Screening 324

15 Sexualities on Film Since the Sexual Revolution 325

Hollywood and the Sexual Revolution 325

Film and Gay Culture from Stonewall to AIDS 327

The AIDS Crisis 332

Queer Theory and New Queer Cinema 334

Box: Queer TV 338

Hollywood Responds to New Queer Cinema 340

Case Study: Love, Simon (2018) 344

(Hetero)Sexualities in Contemporary American Cinema 346

Conclusion: The Power Dynamics of Sexuality 349

Questions for Discussion 351

Further Reading 351

Further Screening 352

Part VI Ability and American Film 353

Introduction to Part VI: What is Ability?

16 Cinematic Images of (Dis)Ability 359

Disabled People in Early American Film: Curiosities and Freaks 360

Romanticizing Disability in Classical Hollywood Melodramas 364

Disability in War Movies and Social Problem Films 366

Disability and the Counterculture 369

Case Study: Children of a Lesser God (1986) 373

After the 1980s: A More Enlightened Hollywood? 374

Far From Hollywood: Documentary, Activism,

and New Modes of Television 377

Questions for Discussion 380

Further Reading 380

Further Screening 381

Glossary 382

Index 404

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