Comedy and Other Hollywood Tropes of American Social Stratification (1990–2011)

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In modern social theory, mass media have been seen as providing ideological support for the reproduction of class inequalities, and structures of exploitation and domination, in industrialized economies. Similarly, cultural anthropologists saw American stratification as contributing no less direct support of the status quo. However, selected Hollywood movies depict an actor-based and inclusive vision of American stratification. In close viewings of Pretty Woman (1990), Good Will Hunting (1997) and The Descendants (2011), I adapt Northrop Frye’s “modes of fiction” framework (1957), which I couple with modern mass media theory and trace back to American exceptionalism, to argue that this vision promotes a comic vindication of class inequality in American society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-422
Number of pages18
JournalVisual Anthropology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
With thanks to Karen Ho, Gary Marks, Sherry Ortner and an anonymous reader, who opined on drafts of this article, as did the late Mischa Penn?to whom it is dedicated.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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