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American Cinema as an Instrument of the US Public Diplomacy
Analysis and Forecasting. IMEMO Journal

American Cinema as an Instrument of the US Public Diplomacy

DOI: 10.20542/afij-2020-2-110-122
© Artamonova U.Z., 2020
Received 27.01.2020
Uliana Z. ARTAMONOVA (, ORCID: 0000-0003-1825-9291, Junior Researcher, Sector of US Foreign and Domestic Policy, Centre of North American Studies. 
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

In this article author tries to verify the hypothesis about systemic collaboration between the American film industry and the US government. Specifically the author questions the statement made first by J. Nye about the pop-culture and cinema being one the main resources of the American soft power. The author challenges this vision by offering to regard cinema not as a passive resource but rather as an actively exploited instrument of American public diplomacy that operates in favor of the US national interests constructing and maintaining positive, attractive and inspiring image of the US abroad.

In order to achieve this goal author explores various sources: statements made by American officials, information available on the official websites of US state institutions, statistical studies conducted by the Motion Picture Association of America, the European Council and independent researchers. In addition, the study of works dedicated to the topic of the relationship between American cinema and politics conducted by both Russian and foreign researchers has also contributed to the findings of this article. Chronologically the research made in this article covers the period from 1940s until nowadays. The starting point marks the first famous case of close cooperation between the US government and American film industry. However, the factual evidence of the study, which indicates government involvement in film production, refers to the period of the Cold War, since part of the archives of that time was made public, rather than to the last decades due to the lack of open sources about such processes today. 

While studying and analyzing the sources and the opinions of experts, the author identifies the reasons of Hollywood’s success: vicious circle of blockbusters’ supply-demand, backed by the fame and the fortune of the biggest studios, as well as the “symbiotic relationship” between those studios and the US government. She illustrates the processes of state-film industry collaboration through the examples of cooperation between the biggest American film studios and Pentagon, as well as their cooperation with CIA.

This article reveals in which ways movies are able to influence the public opinion and perception. Namely: create a generally positive image of the US abroad by showing American lifestyle in the idealized way in movies; weaken the ability of wider audience to criticize the US and consequently their foreign policy as well as the US-centered world order; occasionally shape public opinion on specific matters or events in order to encourage people to act or to think in the favorable for the US national interests ways. The author makes the following conclusion: while it remains up for discussion to what extent symbiosis between cinema and politics is “conscious”, whether both parties truly realize in which position they are (the one of systemic collaboration), one can certainly argue that there is indeed a well-developed system. The system in question creates a particular environment in which American film industry is working within the framework of self-restriction, self-censure and self-control. Because of this system the production of Hollywood (with occasional exceptions), especially the mass-oriented production, is bound to end as a tool of influence, shaping the public perception of the US both inside and what is more important – outside of its borders.

For citation:

Artamonova U. American Cinema as an Instrument of the US Public Diplomacy. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2020, no 2, pp. 110-122.

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