J. Hoberman (Cooper Union, New York)
Ronald Reagan: “I Ain’t Afraid of No Zeitgeist”
“A dream is a wish your heart makes,” sings the heroine of Walt Disney’s 1950 Cinderella. So are those shared fantasies and manufactured social myths that we call the movies and never more so than when they don’t seem to be about anything. Richard Dyer suggests that “entertainment” is essentially compensatory—it not only “offers the image of ‘some- thing better’ to escape into” but “something we want deeply that our day-to-day lives don’t provide.” That something may even be something we didn’t know we even wanted. For many Americans, it was Ronald Reagan, the former movie actor, twice elected president. The Reagan presidency was an idea waiting to happen. After all, democratic politi- cians and the makers of mass culture share a common mission, namely to project scenarios that, naturally hegemonic and reassuring, will appeal to the largest possible audience. What social forces produced Ronald Reagan and what shared fantasies did he articulate? And what historical process or cosmic coincidence made these manifest in the movie Ghost- busters, released in the US during the summer of 1984 and the highest grossing movie of that fateful year?
In cooperation with the Fritz Bauer Institut.
J. Hoberman is a critic and journalist, based in New York. He is Gelb Pro- fessor of the Humanities at the Cooper Union and the author, co-author or editor of 12 books, including Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds, The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism, The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties, An Army of Phantoms: Hollywood and the Making of the Cold War and, most recently, Film After Film, or What Was 21st Century Cin- ema. A film reviewer at the Village Voice for 33 years, he writes regularly for Artforum, the New York Review of Books and the New York Times.