The Hyperreal Theme in 1990s American Cinema

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2010


Reacting against the anxiety, disillusion, and self-doubt that characterized the cultural mood in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, the wish-fulfillment spectacles of Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) dazzle their audiences with vividly dream-like narratives of good prevailing over evil through the power of the hero's untroubled faith in the justice of his cause. If an emerging climate of globalism, multiculturalism, and feminism had threatened the white male's cultural supremacy, the Cold War provides a metanarrative that consolidates power in the hands of the father while simultaneously anchoring reality itself to a stable set of familiar coordinates. Because when the tension and rivalry come to an end, that's when your worst nightmares begin

The article examines the 1990s American cinema with its hyperreal theme. The Reaganite cinema of the 1980s is presented with emphasis on its dream-like narratives of good prevailing over evil through faith in the justice of the hero's cause. The modern interwar years between the collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and September 11, 2001 is described as a period ending history without inaugurating any apparent narrative to take its place. Significant cultural changes are discussed.