Film Comedy and the American Dream is an examination of national identity in the era of the American superpower as projected in popular comedic films that center on issues of upward mobility. It is the story of what made audiences laugh and why, and what this says about the changing shape of the American Dream from the end of the Second World War through the first part of the twenty-first century. Through a combination of narrative and thematic analyses of popular comedic films, contextualized within a dynamic historical framework, the book traces the increasing disillusionment with this central ideology in the face of multiple forms of systemic exclusion. It argues that film comedy is a major component of the discourse surrounding the American Dream because these movies often evoke humor by highlighting the incongruities that exist between the ideals that define this nation versus the actual lived experiences of its citizens.
Table of Contents
1. The Pursuit of Happiness
1.1 Don’t Try This At Home
1.2 What’s So Funny?
1.3 The Good Life
1.4 Analyzing the Dream
1.5 Inside Jokes
1.6 The Punchline
2. White Picket Fences (1946-1962)
2.1 Family Values
2.2 Joe vs. Harvey
2.3 Happily Ever After
2.4 These Kids Today
3. Wake Up! (1963-1979)
3.1 The Times They are A-Changin’
3.2 Free Enterprise
3.3 This is Not Your Parents’ Dream
3.4 There’s a New Sheriff in Town
4. Class Clowns/Corporate Culture (1980-1996)
4.2 Patriarchy is No Malarkey
4.3 "Live from New York, It’s the Eddie Murphy Show!"
4.4 Grow Up Already
5. The Last Laugh (1997-2016)
5.1 The Dream is Dead, Long Live the Dream!
5.2 Men Will Be Boys
5.3 The Virtues of Being a Slacker
5.4 It’s the End of the World as We Know It…And I Feel Fine
Zach Sands has a PhD in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University, USA
"In Film Comedy and the American Dream, Zachary Sands takes the history of American movie comedy seriously as a source of a sustained and evolving critique of that elusive yet indispensable cultural concept, the American Dream. Through careful, insightful, and witty analyses of crucial movie comedies over the course of American movie history, Sands traces the promise and dashed hopes of the American Dream in relation to economics, gender, and neoliberalism, taking on sex comedies, bromances, and zombies along the way." --John Alberti, Northern Kentucky University, USA