1st Edition

How Popular Culture Destroys our Political Imagination Capitalism and its Alternatives in Film and Television

By Eugene Nulman Copyright 2025
    304 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    304 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How Popular Culture Destroys our Political Imagination: Capitalism and its Alternatives in Film and Television explores the representations of capitalism, the state, and their alternatives in popular screen media texts.

    Acknowledging the problems that stem systemically from capitalism and the state, this book investigates an often-overlooked reason for why society struggles to imagine alternative economic and political systems in our neoliberal age: popular culture. The book analyzes over 400 screen media texts in search of critiques and alternative representations of these systems and demonstrates the ways in which film and television shape the way we collectively see the world and imagine our political futures. It suggests that popular culture is the answer to the question of why it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

    Contributing to the areas of sociology, media studies, and utopian studies, this book provides insights into the topic of popular culture and politics in a theoretically informed and entertaining manner. The book will be useful to both students and scholars interested in these topics, as well as activists and organizers seeking to make the world a better place.  


    1. Neoliberalism, TINA, and the Titanic Effects 

    2. Research Methods 

    3. Eight Limited Critiques of Capitalism: Mapping the Terrain 

    4. Representations of Evil:  A Cinematic Anthropology of Villains 

    5. Structural Critiques in Film and TV: Mr. Moneybags and the Hidden Abode 

    6. Representations of Crises, Colonialism, and Consumerism:  Fat Cats, Starving Dogs, and Tulip Bulbs

    7. Transferable Radicalness: Alternative Lifestyles in Film and TV 

    8. Radical Resistance in The Lego Movie: The Building Blocks of Utopia           

    9. Utopian Conclusions:  Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrowland 

    Appendix I: Films/Television Programs Analyzed


    Eugene Nulman is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore. He has written on the subject of popular culture and society and social movements, with a focus on climate activism. He has written the books Coronavirus Capitalism Goes to the Cinema (2021) and Climate Change and Social Movements: Civil Society and the Development of National Climate Change Policy (2015). He has published academic work in journals such as Third World Quarterly; Media, Culture and Society; Journal of Youth Studies; and Environmental Politics