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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The New Historicism has challenged the belief of the Realist Historicism of the nineteenth century that the antiquarian goal of history was to distill documents down into clear one - dimensional facts . Conversely the New Historicism ...
In documentary history , " the basis of research is " hard ' fact derived from the critical sifting of sources . " Thus documentary historicism can only revise the historical record by unearthing new documents that contain " hitherto ...
Popular film is an excellent example of a LaCaprian text that can both " supplement or rework ' reality ” while also serving as a source open to textual , holographic interpretation which can " divulge facts about ' reality .
Thus historical facts can only be interpreted by the examination of their relationship " to other events occurring in their circumambient historical space . " What contextualist history strives for is ...
Therefore , filmmakers better jolly well grow up and accept the fact that whether they like it or not , their job carries enormous ... the facts , the threads of social history , but rather actually " sets the social agenda .