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Connors, Clare Therese (2005) THE HOLLYWOOD YOUTH NARRATIVE AND THE FAMILY VALUES CAMPAIGN, 1980-1992. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The dissertation seeks to identify and analyze the cultural work performed by the Hollywood youth narrative during the 1980s and early nineties, a period that James Davison Hunter has characterized as a domestic "culture war." This era of intense ideological confrontation between philosophical agendas loosely defined as "liberal" and "conservative," increasing social change, and social polarization and gender/sexual orientation backlash began with Ronald Reagan's landslide victory in 1980 and continued for twelve years through the presidency of George Bush, Sr. The dissertation examines the Hollywood youth narrative in the context of the family values debate and explicates its role in negotiating and resolving social conflict in a period of intense social change. The dissertation theorizes the historic and cultural function of the Hollywood youth narrative in "translating" complex social problems into generational and familial conflicts that can be easily, if superficially, resolved through conventional Hollywood genre narrative structures. In the specific instance of the family values debate, the dissertation analyzes how important low-budget Hollywood youth narratives both supported and challenged the traditional translation of social conflict into easily resolved generational conflict to reveal the complex social and economic factors behind the "crisis in the American family." "The Fifties" played a critical role in debates regarding family life during the Reagan and Bush era. The dissertation explicates and contrasts the definitions of "the Fifties" and the use of 1950s Hollywood film and television materials in the Hollywood youth narrative and Family Values Campaign and demonstrates how young filmmakers used the icons, images and narrative structures of important 1950s Hollywood films to both support and challenge the socially conservative vision of American family life promoted by the Family Values Campaign and its New Right supporters. Through an analysis of Tim Hunter's River's Edge and Micheal Lehmann's Heathers, the dissertation demonstrates how two Hollywood youth narratives of the period reveal the fundamental contradictions between the New Right's idealized versions of American family values and the values of laissez faire capitalism, the often devastating impact of Reaganomics on the family as a site of social reproduction, and the troubled relationship between youth and consumer culture.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Connors, Clare Theresewakan@pitt.eduWAKAN
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFischer, Lucylfischer@pitt.eduLFISCHER
Committee MemberStabile, Carol
Committee MemberLandy, Marcia
Committee MemberBoone, Troy
Date: 4 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 15 April 2005
Approval Date: 4 October 2005
Submission Date: 8 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: youth films; family values debate; reaganism; genre studies; hollywood youth narratives; coming-of-age
Other ID:, etd-08082005-110134
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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