Robert Sklar’s “Hollywood and the Age of Reagan” presentation summary

The most important aspect of Sklar’s reading is the idea of synergy.  Synergy is the combination of two or more things or when two or more things work together.  When these two things work together they tend to enhance each other.

Synergy was extremely present in 1980s Hollywood.  There was synergy between the government and the film industry.  The film industry was greatly affected by the government, as the Reagan administration loosened regulations on businesses and studios, causing synergistic merging.  Studios began to merge with each other and other companies from different media (like the Time Warner combination).  The government was very much affected by Hollywood as well.  Reagan called his Strategic Defense Initiative “Star Wars” and he called the Soviet Union the “evil empire.”  Also, just the fact that Reagan was a former Hollywood actor shows how much the film industry has seeped into the United States government.

There was synergy between technology and the film industry.  In the 1980s most people had VCRs, video games, and cable television.  Technology influenced Hollywood greatly.  Video games sparked ideas for movies and cable television created a new stream of revenue for studios.  In turn Hollywood affected technology.  Movies sparked ideas for video games and gave channels such as HBO something to run.

Sklar also writes about how the 1980s were different from previous eras in film because most of the popular movies were drawn from B movies from the time of the Great Depression and WWII.  This is a reason that Body Double was interesting in relation to the decade in which it was made.  This film seemed to be aware of the shift in Hollywood towards B movie plots.  It made a parody of B movies while at the same time drew its own plot from other films.  Jake Scully is acting in a B movie at the beginning of the film.  Throughout Body Double De Palma pulls various scenes and plot points from old Hitchcock films, such as Rear Window.  He brings back Scully’s B movie shoot at the end of the film which I believe shows his awareness of B movie influence on 80s films and puts it in a comical light.

Sklar writes about the “hard body” image that was emerging during the Reagan Era.  This “hard body” film category is, in my opinion, another example of synergy.  It combines film with U.S. politics – The Vietnam War and the inaction of the Cold War caused a loss of masculinity in the U.S.  This feeling among American men combined with the film industry resulted in films such as Rambo.  Like Professor Zinman said during the lecture on Tuesday, Rambo was a cathartic opportunity to win the Vietnam War.  The odd thing about Rambo though is that it seemed at parts to be anti-synergy.  The synergy of film and technology proved to be beneficial for the film industry, yet the scene we watched on Tuesday showed Rambo blowing up all the computers with his machine gun.  But I guess it makes sense at the same time, because if you parallel technology with the Soviet Union like Professor Zinman talked about in the lecture, both caused great feelings of hostility in the 1980s.

I added the Ronbo poster because I felt it perfectly illustrated the idea of synergy in the 1980s.


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