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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But if these clusters of sociohistorically conscious films marked certain periods of the eighties decade , there were also other sociohistorical issues that , year after year , consistently influenced themes and genres of film " texts .
The importance of film history lies not in the images or themes of individual films but in the emplotted metaphors and motifs shared by groups of films that together portray , approach , and often even comment upon a specific historical ...
... ( themes ) such as politics , social consciousness , revisionist history , moral messaging and existential themes . ... then , might be holographed visually in this manner : EVENT HISTORY TEXT PRIMARY TEXT ( plot ) SUBTEXTS ( themes ) ...
Themes like this concept of self - reflexivity form like crystals upon each of the layers of the film holograph . ... with an analysis of the textuality of a social event or trend or theme that has generated filmic representations .
In the eighties , the same sociohistorical selectivity , the same dynamic of the temper of the times choosing the type of metaphoric vehicles most appropriate for the representations of its themes , is evident .