The Films of the Eighties: A Social History
SIU Press, 1995 - 335 pages
In this remarkable sequel to his Films of the Seventies: A Social History, William J. Palmer examines more than three hundred films as texts that represent, revise, parody, comment upon, and generate discussion about major events, issues, and social trends of the eighties.
Palmer defines the dialectic between film art and social history, taking as his theoretical model the "holograph of history" that originated from the New Historicist theories of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra. Combining the interests and methodologies of social history and film criticism, Palmer contends that film is a socially conscious interpreter and commentator upon the issues of contemporary social history. In the eighties, such issues included the war in Vietnam, the preservation of the American farm, terrorism, nuclear holocaust, changes in Soviet-American relations, neoconservative feminism, and yuppies.
Among the films Palmer examines are Platoon, The Killing Fields, The River, Out of Africa, Little Drummer Girl, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Silkwood, The Day After, Red Dawn, Moscow on the Hudson, Troop Beverly Hills, and Fatal Attraction. Utilizing the principles of New Historicism, Palmer demonstrates that film can analyze and critique history as well as present it.
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In 1983-84 films like Testament and Silkwood , prodded , perhaps , by Israel's air strike against an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 , again signaled the dangers of the long - standing nuclear threat to the planet .
And it is perhaps by inquiring into these neighboring fields , where theoretical developments bearing upon the reading of texts have emerged in their strongest forms , that intellectual historians can acquire the conceptual means to ...
... sense of or perhaps project for -- control in a world out of joint has of course been a lodestar of historiography " but " its intellectual and practical limitations are only recently becoming evident in the historical profession .
Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon of a mass medium itself actually becoming news is the made - for - TV movie The Day After . The impact of that single " media event " so catalyzed public opinion that it influenced the Reagan ...
In the 1978 film Coming Home , a character complains , " they tore down my past and built a shopping center . " Perhaps that irony best characterizes this subtext of cynicism that moves throughout both eighties social and film history .