Movies by nature are designed to entertain but on a deeper level they carry subtle messages and themes, which explain the dreams, ambitions, and fears of the cultures that create them. I recently stumbled across an article in the New York Times titled, “Movies in the Age of Obama” The piece was placed in the entertainment section but provides a fascinating cultural analysis of American film under the Obama administration. In the past four years American film has painted a picture of a country struggling to redefine itself following economic turmoil and a decade of war.
During President Obama’s first term the American public’s perceptions on controversial issues changed drastically. These ideas were reflected in some of the big movies in the past four years. Topics top of mind included race relations, war, Black men, and climate change. Many factors contributed to the American public’s new perceptions but most notably the Great Recession and the election of the country’s first Black president played crucial roles in shifting ideology.
The most notable shift can be seen in the American public’s view of Black men. Always a hot topic, Black men have evolved in film from savages in “Birth of a Nation” to become heroes and even sex symbols in modern day movies. America’s complex relationship with Blackness reached a turning point in the election of Barack Obama and was the culmination of the civil rights movement and carefully crafted images displayed on silver screens.
A similar transformation is taking place for the LGBT community. Gay characters in film have begun to become more complex and are no longer limited to stereotypical representations. Given the country’s rapidly changing perception on Gay rights and Obama’s vocal support of LGBT issues, it wouldn’t surprise me if queer ideas make a big splash on the silver screen in the next four years. Only time will tell but if history is any indicator, the cultural war surrounding LGBT issues is coming to a close. Similar to other cultural issues such as interracial marriage, race, and gender equality; media is helping reshape our values and creating dialogue about once difficult topics.
As a whole Obama’s first term had the makings of a blockbuster movie itself. From the big bailouts in the beginning to the shooting in Newtown at the end, Obama like many characters in film changed significantly from when he first entered office. Now starting his second term, it should be interesting to see what his presidency brings the American people in terms of policy and film.
[Photo courtesy of Digital Traveler]