explore 2 ways in which american culture was affected by the cold war Essay

Submitted By Charlie-Avent
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Analyse the way in which the Cold War affected any two parts of American popular culture


When studying the Cold War in conjunction with American popular culture there are two main areas that are directly affected, film productions and the contemporary literature. With the rise of spy and espionage material into the mainstream of American culture it is clearly evident how the Cold War affected the national psyche. As well as this the emergence of the great Hollywood productions with their government funding and censorship it is easy to see how both arts were heavily influenced by the political climate of the time.

Throughout the Cold War the American film industry was moulded by the events taking place and those involved. With the Nazi’s turning to film as a form of propaganda the American government also used its widespread audience to help propagate their views on the world. Through out the long war there is a clear transition in subject material, target audience and the perceived threat of the time. The shift from spy thrillers towards subjects of of nuclear war and on to science fiction highlights the developing fears of the American people towards the USSR1. With the advent of nuclear armament on both sides many of the events in the films of the 60s and 70s presented a very real threat to the respective populations of both major nations as well as those around them.

Already used by the Nazi’s as an effective form of propaganda the American government sought to use film’s widespread appeal to their advantage. Throughout the late 40s and early 50s the American film industry was given funding by the US government this resulted in over 70 explicitly anti-communist films to be produced between 1948 and 19532. These early films such as Conspirator3 and My Son John4 played on the fear and conspiracy of the American people produced by the advent of McCarthyism and an escalation in the Cold War. By producing films on the basis of hidden communists and secret agents the FBI and United States government was able to garner support for institutions such as The House Un-American Activities Committee used to blacklist artists thought of having communist sympathies. When studying this period and subject one must take into account the documents of the time produced by the FBI and CIA surrounding film production. This is famously remembered with the starting list of the Hollywood ten, the first ten artists to be blacklisted, the figure would eventually rise to over 300. Apart from merely blacklisting these artists the HUAC was also responsible for producing several anti-communist films including The Red Menace5, and Red Planet Mars6. As well as HUAC there were also many other organisations set up to provide a barrier against communism in the American film industry. These groups included the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, the Catholic Legion of Decency and the Product Code Administration all of whom were responsible for filtering out and removing films all deemed to be either politically subversive or morally questionable. The creation of these organisations in them selves gives huge evidence to the massive effect of the Cold War on American life and culture.

When films were first produced in America, they were the great art movies of the 1920s and 1930s. Films such as Wuthering Heights7 (1939) and Citizen Kane8 (1941) which were produced before the advent of the Cold War and as such do not have the same backing and thus hidden agenda of those made after 1945. This censorship and government involvement is most evident in the production of a British cartoon version of Animal Farm9, which was produced under covert CIA auspices. This shows the shift in films being made for the pleasure of the viewer and the story, instead of for the government to edge people’s views towards what they wanted. This input from federal government in 1950s film is expressed by Dowdy, “if we only had movies by which to…