Throughout this course we have looked at a number of important events in American history since World War II. Each of the films below can be seen as a reflection (though a fictionalized account) of an event or period in recent American history: McCarthyism, Domestic Containment, Youth Rebellion, Beatlemania, the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights, or Feminism.
Select one film from the list below. Research, watch, and write an essay on how your selected film reflected American culture at the time. Discuss how your film can be seen as a historical artifact.
Select one of the following.
1950s: Sabrina (1954), Gigi (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Big Jim McLain (1952), Blackboard Jungle (1955), or Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
1960s: The Graduate (1967), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Easy Rider (1969), My Fair Lady (1964), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), or In the Heat of the Night (1967)
1970s: M*A*S*H (1970), Saturday Night Fever (1977), All the President’s Men (1976), or Nine to Five (1980)
Research your film.
- What is the background of this film (e.g., characters, plot, release date)?
- Focusing on a specific point in American history (McCarthyism, Domestic Containment, Youth Rebellion, Beatlemania, the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights, or Feminism), what social issues and historical events were taking place at the time the film was released?
- Focusing on a specific point in American history, how do you see characters or elements from the film fitting in with important events and issues of the time? How is film a historical artifact (a reflection of the social, political, and cultural current events)?
- Why do you think these fictionalized accounts of history created in Hollywood shape American’s perceptions of events more powerfully and profoundly than the printed word? Please be specific.
Watch the film you selected (using YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, or other sources) and be sure to include the film in your works cited list.
Write an essay using the information and details you gathered from your research above to answer the following questions. Given the information you gathered about the background and cultural history on the film, explain its cultural relevance as it fits into one of these events discussed in the course: McCarthyism, Domestic Containment, Youth Rebellion, Beatlemania, the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights, or Feminism. How is the film a historical artifact of these? Why do you think these fictionalized accounts of history created by Hollywood shape American’s perceptions? Please be specific.
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