American Films and Society Since 1945

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In the introduction to the American and Society Since 1945, Leonard Quart and Albert Auster discusses the importance of films as it relates to our society and the way we think. Quart and Auster uses different forms of critiques to highlight the importance of films in our modern society. They argue that films connect with society in a manner that literature and other art forms fail to do. As Arthur Schlensinger Jr. has said, “American imagination suggests all the more strongly that movies have something to tell us not just about the surfaces but the mysteries of American life” (Pg. 4). Those mysteries of American life are left for the viewer to uncover. Leonard Quart and Albert Auster list the positive aspects of political films through various forms of critiques.

According to Quart and Auster, American film represents a point in time; it provides an insight into an era. Whether it is through the landscape of a particular scene or the outfits that an actor wears, they all represent a point in time. Also, the culture and general mindset of that particular age can be integrated by the development of characters or the setting of a film. For example, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Dirty Harry (1971) both capture completely different aspects of criminal life. The reason why these films were able to achieve success is because it highlights the struggle of that time period. On one hand, there were the rebellious young who longed for political change while the older conservative left the government to handle “bigger” issues. A realization that Quart and Auster points out is that films, as opposed to other art forms, gains the upper-hand due to popular demand. In other words, the ratio of people who view movies reaches a peak that other art forms just simply cannot do. They explain that the reason why this is true is because movies capture the appeal of the viewers. Although it may not mirror any belief or understanding, it can represent the general mindset...
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