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.
The fifties decade began a change in the American land- scape as Levittown signaled the exodus from urban enclosure and the creation of a suburban middle ... Like America in the fifties , eighties America was a " sure - thing society .
He was a master at using what Hollywood has always known : that the American people arc most comfortable in believing and understanding events that they can see . Film images verify and reveal history , and eighties society was acutely ...
34 Davies's example is an artificial , sound - stage view of America , but his point speaks to the power of film to present America . American films define the temper of American society in the time of their time .
... society history has become a text for interpreting and often substantiating present action . In the eighties , history is being used to substantiate both the most important and the most trivial aspects of American culture .
... they actually participate in the making of history by motivating the mass mind of society to its own historical ... farmer and actually helped to lobby the Congress into " bail - out " legislation for beleagured American farmers .