Hollywood and the Hero Image

Hollywood and the Hero Image

Hollywood and the Hero Image
The influence of Hollywood and its continuous adjustment of the hero image, from the Humphrey Bogarts to the everyman G.I. Joe’s of World War II. The Hollywood studio system sensitive to public opinion, learned early in its development to supply their audiences with heroes that fit the prevailing social and political climate. America during the post-depression pre-war period, reviving from the hard life of poverty, despair, disillusioned with government, personal success, and lacking pride in their country were hungry for diversion. Hollywood supplied them with the Three Stooges, gangsters, private eyes, dashing white-coated sophisticates, dancing girls and musicals.
Moreover, while this diversion was taking place, a part of the Hollywood elite were using their power to shape and influence the collective mind of America by producing movies depicting the struggle of man against hardship, our early heritage, the dignity of man, and the reconnecting of the people into a powerful nation. The Good Earth (1937), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), Meet John Doe (1939), and Mr. Smith goes to Washington (1939), are examples. The heroes of these movies were the average everyday man or woman, thrown in to circumstances beyond their control. They were the reluctant heroes of their time, yet they were able to show that anyone could be a hero if they needed to. Rich, poor, short, or tall the audience could emphasize with these types of movies, and heroes as many of the audience were against political corruption, and pro-labor. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) by John Steinbeck, is the best example of a film depicting the plight of the average poor share croppers forced from their homes by the depression and dust storms that plagued the Great Plains through the thirties. The hero of this film is Tom Joad (played by Henry Fonda), and follows him and his family as they migrate to California from Oklahoma looking for a new life. Tom becomes the reluctant...

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