As I was thinking about the unique mix of culture criticism here at Blogcritics, I came across two books that seem to offer contrasting analysis of American culture and its political and social impact. I have not yet read the books in question but wanted to pass them on anyway in case it takes me a while to get to them. Perhaps on of our intrepid reviewers could take them on.
The first is Shows About Nothing by Thomas Hibbs:
The portrayal of evil in film and television, frequently denounced as an attack on "family values" and an incitement to real-life violence, is more complicated and more disturbing than we realize. In a pointed challenge to both Hollywood and its critics, Professor Thomas Hibbs argues that the demonic anti-heroes and seductive comic evil of popular culture are not weapons in a conscious cultural assault but reactions to the apathy and conformity of American life.
The other is Gilligan Unbound by Paul A. Cantor:
Popular television shows are commonly a reflection of national principles. Shakespeare scholar Cantor (English, Univ. of Virginia) here analyzes four of the most famous prime-time series in the history of television with particular attention to how these shows portrayed American ideals and influences. Cantor shows us how the castaways of Gilligan's Island recreated America in their isolation and how Star Trek reflected Cold War fears and sensibilities. He also speculates about the post-Cold War, cynical, introspective Springfield of The Simpsons and how society's distrust of Washington is evident in the skepticism that characterizes The X-Files.
Both authors see TV, movies, etc. as a reflection of rather than a assault on American life. But it seems that Cantor views these shows (the Simpsons, X-files, etc.) as containing positive ideals as well as negative. Whereas Hibbs views popular culture as sliding deeper and deeper into nihilism.
I think reading and comparing and contrasting these two books should prove interesting. And if I can ever get off my duff and get reading I will do just that . . .