• Kristian Ruseng Jakobsen
4. term, History, Master (Master Programme)
The aim of this thesis is to examine the role Hollywood played during the first part of the Cold War, from 1945 to 1968, from the point of view that American popular culture, in this case Hollywood feature films in particular, played a profound role in propagandizing the American way of life. The Cold War was not a conventional war fought with conventional weapons, even though both the USA and the Soviet Union took part in a few proxy wars, most predominantly the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In reality the main battle during the conflict was for the hearts and minds of the people, and in that battle Hollywood was a crucial strategic weapon. Hollywood enjoyed an unprecedented popularity during this era in American history, and for this reason Washington seized the chance to utilize Hollywood to propagandize the American way of life.
During the conflict Hollywood and Washington had a reciprocal relationship, for good and for bad, in the sense that during the early years of the Cold War, most predominantly between 1947 and 1954, the House Un-American Activities Committee’s activities in Hollywood prompted the production of around 70 films that can be categorized as being anticommunist agitprop films. The production of these movies sprang from the aura of fear that swept through Hollywood at this time. Although at the same time the State Department made sure also to aid Hollywood filmmakers in exporting films both to the European market, and later also through the iron curtain. The strategy is known as public diplomacy or cultural diplomacy, and the aim was to win the hearts and minds of the people by persuading and seducing them with technicolorful moving pictures. In relation to the notion of cultural diplomacy, the term soft power is of equal importance. The term was coined by the political scientist Joseph S. Nye, Jr. in the book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (1990) and it points to the fact that when a state’s values, ideology and culture are attractive, it has the ability to persuade other states to behave as they want them to. In this case American soft power is represented via Hollywood feature films, in which the themes of individualism, consumerism and therefore Americanism are very much present. Thus, Hollywood went from being just an art form to become a weapon in the battle of hearts and minds.
The reason that the State Department assisted in the export of American films to the foreign markets, was because in turn the American feature films in many ways were the best salesmen for the American way of life, and in the battle for hearts and minds, the phrase way of life is fundamental. Hollywood films implicitly supported the American way of life, and even though they in some cases did question the means of the American Cold War stance, they still managed to persuade their audiences, while they also rarely questioned the ends of American Cold War policy. With regard to Hollywood’s role in the Cold War, the most eventful period took place between 1945 and 1968, and therefore this thesis is limited to this time period.
In this thesis I have divided the period 1945 – 1968 into three different sections, where, by looking at different aspects of Hollywood’s role in the Cold War, I will decipher how the State Department and Hollywood worked together in an effort to control the mass opinion and by doing this, how they tried to win the hearts and minds of the people. There is no doubt that American soft power played a profound role in the Cold War, and this means that in many ways, and via different mediums, the American way of life was dispersed around the globe. The result was that, because the Hollywood films reflected the positive and prosperous sides of life in the USA, it helped persuade and seduce allies, neutrals and even enemies to long for the high level of American prosperity.
Publication date3 Jun 2019
Number of pages79
ID: 304980997