CHANGING FILM IMAGES ASSOCIATED WITH SOCIAL AND CULTURAL VARIATIONS: AN ANALYSIS OF FUTURE-BASED AMERICAN FILM
Mueller, John L.
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Previous research has examined literature and television’s relationship with society, but few have taken this approach to cinema. Technology has increased the accessibility to film, making the relationship between cinema and society a salient topic of inquiry. This paper delineates patterns in American cinema’s depiction of future, or forthcoming societies and their relationships with critical events and social change. Drawing on reflection theory, I argue cinema is shaped by society. Using a mixed methods model I analyzed thematic variations in forty-four American futurist films from 1953 to 2012. Quantitative results on protagonist race and gender revealed high levels of homogeneity, depicting heroic white males in most films. Three qualitative areas focusing on the films’ social world were analyzed for thematic variation. Each thematic category revealed periods of American history where a certain theme, or themes, predominated over others. From these patterns, a grounded approach was employed to interpret social phenomena co-occurred during these periods. Results showed distinct periods of thematic overlap, where each thematic category co-occurred with the other two. These macro level patterns were shown to reflect—a direct simulacra of the social world appeared—or mirror—reverse images of contemporary society were shown—the social world which created them.