How Has the "American Dream" Been Translated Into Popular Film? Refer

Topics: United States, Taxi Driver, Vietnam War Pages: 8 (2814 words) Published: March 24, 2002
How has the "American Dream" been translated into popular film? Refer to at least four films.

The American Dream is an often mentioned and well-known term used to describe the ideology of the United States of America. Despite the common usage of the term it is not always completely understood and so requires, at least, a brief introduction and definition. P Mueller in his writing Star Trek and the American Dream claims that "…to some the American dream is just "from rags to riches", to others it includes the realisation of high flying ideals as old as mankind itself." Mueller then goes onto say that the term was coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams and identifies three main roots: mythical aspects (leading back to the ancient dream of a perfect society and as paradise even before the continent was discovered), religious aspects (which Mueller describes as dealing with the puritan vision of a city upon a hill) and political aspects (arising from the declaration of independence and the constitution). It would seem that the most important of these three themes is arguably that of the political nature and various commentators have defined the American Dream in this way. Martin Luther King claimed "It [the American Dream] is found in those majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, words lifted to cosmic proportions: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This is a dream. It's a great dream." Jim Bickford concurred with this view within his writing The American Dream: Our Heritage of Hope (in which he goes onto to identify several examples of the American Dream in practice throughout history) when he claimed "America was built on dreams" and went onto to discuss the importance of the declaration of independence in creating the dream by stating "Our ancestors chose to take the risk by putting their lives on the line and fighting for freedom" .

In respect to the medium of film it comes as no surprise that the American Dream has filtered itself, both consciously and unconsciously, directly and indirectly, onto the screen. America, and in particular Hollywood, is the dominant producer of film within the world today. Where Hollywood leads other filmmaking nations follow. The American Dream is largely presented within film in the sense of the political context: life, liberty and (in particular) the pursuit of Happiness but there is no uniform depiction of this. There are various distinct ways of presenting the American Dream within film and not all of these correspond to each other. For example, for every glorious and gratifying presentation of the USA and the American Dream there is arguably a cynical and misanthropic representation, criticising America and it's society. Situations such as this lead us to question the methods of presenting the American Dream. What forms can this presentation take? What agendas do the filmmakers have? And do the films come with any particular political, social or ideological comment intended?

The most common thread of the American Dream within film is arguably that which Mueller identified, the rags to riches story. Mueller describes this as the most basic definition of the American Dream and its simplicity may be one of the factors in increasing its appeal to filmmakers. Mueller also lists key elements within the American Dream such as "manifest destiny", "the frontier" and "the melting pot" and it would seem prudent to include another key element, that of "the land of opportunity", which whilst not specifically mentioned by Mueller is often held to be interlinked to the American Dream. Mueller transposes these notions onto the long running television series Star Trek and cites such elements as the ship "boldly going" and the role of space as "the final frontier". However, he does not comment as...

Bibliography:  Edited by Pym. J, Time Out Film Guide, 8th Ed, Penguin Books, 2000.
 Rosenbaum. J, Vietnam Dispatches (PP1621-1624) in The Movie: The Illustrated History, No. 82, Ordis Publishing Limited, 1981.
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