Research Proposal: How Did Nationalism Reveal Itself Through Films During World War II?

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¶ … nationalism reveal itself through films during World War II?

Nationalism in World War II cinema

During World War II, the entire nation mobilized to fight. Every aspect of the United States' economy was channeled to serve the war effort, including the cinematic output of the motion picture industry. Just like factories shifted from creating nylon stockings to making parachutes for the Air Force, Hollywood shifted from making comedies and romances to cheer up Depression-era audiences to making propaganda films to support the war effort. The popularity of the movies enabled the government to use motion picture images to support their effort on a mass scale that was undreamed-of, during World War I.

Today, when Hollywood is often demonized in the rhetoric of conservative politicians as 'liberal' and 'un-American' it is easy to forget that the big studios became instrumental in the propaganda effort designed to encourage the weary American public to be filled with enthusiasm about fighting Hitler and the Japanese empire. "During WWII television was not the vehicle of mass communication that it is today. Instead that role was served by radio and by films. Films were produced and distributed to audiences within the United States, but also overseas as well. Between 1942 and 1943, films reached a weekly paid attendance of 85 million, not including the free viewing offered to millions of military service members. Thus, government officials believed films could reach the mass audience with propaganda messages better than other forms of mass media" (Christie & Clark 2008, 56)

Today, the best-remembered films of the era are classics such as Casablanca and Mrs. Miniver because they have strong narrative power that transcends the one-sided, pro-war propaganda inherent in the films. Propaganda, by definition, is a one-sided depiction of an issue designed to elicit a specific response from the viewer. "At the onset of the Second World War, the Office of War Information authored and distributed the Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry to "assist the motion picture industry in its endeavor to inform the American people, via the screen, of the many problems attendant on the war program…the power, cruelty and complete cynicism of the enemy should be pictured…" (Christie & Clark 2008, 62-63). In Thomas Christie and C. Andrew M. Clark's 2008 article, "Framing Two Enemies in Mass Media: A Content Analysis of U.S. Government Influence in American Film during World War II," films of the era were viewed and 'coded' for various characterizations of the enemy. Germans were primarily shown, the viewers found, as violating people's rights and dominating by force (Christie & Clark 2008, 65-66). The Japanese were coded as being 'sneaky' and disregarding other peoples' rights. In the 11 films examined, "six of the ten government-encouraged characterizations were found" of the Japanese and in 17 depictions of the German enemy, 9 of the ten characterizations were found (Christie & Clark 2008, 67-68). The consistency of these portraits, state Christie and Clark, accompanied by "the substantial financial incentives accompanying government approval of film (i.e., releasing the film for overseas distribution)" suggest that the major studios were highly influenced by government pressure to portray 'the enemy' in a highly specific fashion (Christie & Clark 2008, 69).

Christie and Clark acknowledge that other influences may be at work. After all, the United States film industry is a private enterprise that wishes to make money. The public was already angry at the Japanese army for its bombing of Pearl Harbor, and at the Nazi's encroachment over much of Europe. American boys were fighting and dying abroad, so films that appealed to popular anger against these forces were likely to draw wide audiences, versus films that did not.

While Christie and Clark admit there are certain deficits in their study's portrayal of the complex nature of government influence and nationalism in films of the era, one interesting… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

How Did Nationalism Reveal Itself Through Films During World War II?.  (2010, December 2).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nationalism-reveal-itself-films-during/21531

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Chicago Format

"How Did Nationalism Reveal Itself Through Films During World War II?."  Essaytown.com.  December 2, 2010.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nationalism-reveal-itself-films-during/21531.