The Weaponising of Cinema: Hollywood, Propaganda and Portrayals of Enemies of the State/s The Hollywood and the World Project

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The Weaponising of Cinema: Hollywood, Propaganda and Portrayals of Enemies of the State/s
The Hollywood and the World Project

Friday 24th July – Sunday 26th July 2015
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Presentations:
With its controversial depiction of an assassination attempt on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, The Interview (2014) triggered outrage in North Korea as well as retaliatory bomb threats against movie theatres that agree showed the film and the hacking of email accounts at Sony Pictures Entertainment, the parent company of Columbia Pictures, which made the film. While the backlash against The Interview was unprecedented, the film itself it part of a long-standing tradition in which Hollywood plays out the political and ideological conflicts that exist between the United States and other countries such as North Korea (Team America: World Police), Russia (Die Hard 5), China (World War Z), Vietnam (Apocalypse Now), and Somalia (Black Hawk Down) using negative stereotypes to demonise or ridicule anyone considered an enemy of the state. Regardless of whether this engagement is explicit or masked as seemingly harmless comedy, and regardless of any stated intention on the part of the filmmakers, the fact that these stories are being produced and consumed underscores cinema's status as a powerful cultural and ideological weapon. Because Hollywood can tell a story in a multitude of ways, it matters when a story is set in a particular place and time, when the villain is coded as a particular nationality and when the resolution of the story affirms a particular set of values or codes of behaviour. It matters when the portrayal of so-called enemies, as in The Interview, gives voice to the view. "They hate us 'cause they ain't us!" But even where there is agreement that such content does matter, questions arise over the implications and meaning of such content, particularly over whether the presentation of a negative stereotype constitutes an endorsement or a critique of the stereotype.

Questions also arise around not only what it means to be an enemy but how that status might be portrayed. Whilst actual conflict, such as World War II for example, may provide some justification for propaganda and the vilification of the enemy, the continued use of such ideologically focused media and stereotypes in peacetime is questionable at best, and even more so when enemies of the past are now the friends of the present; Germany and the continued use of Nazis within films such as Inglorious Bastards. The somewhat conflicted nature within this, where enemies are now friends, is continued in more recent representations of the War on Terror and the fight against fundamentalism and radicalisation. Here the enemy is not always situated "over there" but takes root inside the home nation itself.

Of course, the influence of these stories is no longer limited to the cinema, thanks to the financial and cross-media entanglements that have given Hollywood's key corporate players stakes in merchandising, gaming, smart phones, tablets, internet television, music and beyond. In this way, Hollywood plays an important role in the creation of a convergent digital reality that enables audiences to immerse themselves in cultural products. These developments implicitly and explicitly rely on advancing the ideologies of consumerism and consumption, which raises the stakes on telling stories with a different sort of propagandistic aim, where the "baddie" isn't an enemy of the state, but rather an opponent of consumerism.

This meeting calls for submissions that deal with any aspect of Hollywood and propaganda that deals with the on screen depiction of "enemies of the state", whether real, imagined or "out-of-this-world", both external or internal to the "homeland"; the technical innovations used to facilitate this, in terms of cinemascope, sound, 3D and immersive cinema; publicity and support systems used to disseminate such material, such as global merchandising, social media, the Oscars etc.; backers and sources of funding utilised, such as governmental, CIA, religious groups, corporate entities etc.; forms of resisitance and oppositional cinema like self-funded film, world cinema, alternative forms visual narrative.

Possible topics for submissions:

1) Depictions of the Enemy in Ongoing Conflicts (both during and after the conflict):
Border War with Mexico, Occupation of Nicaragua, Haiti and the Domincan Republic, WWI, WWII, The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Somali Civil War, Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, ISIL.

2) Depictions of Enemies in Historical Conflicts:
American Revolution, Indian Wars, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Philippine-American War, Boxer Rebellion.

3) Enemies at Home:
5th Columnists, Fellow Travellers, Double Agents, Religious and Political Extremists, Racial/Ethnic Groups, Homosexuals, Anarchists, Dark Web/Economy, Hacktavists, Returning Soldiers and Disaffected Citizens.

4) Modes, Dissemination and Immersion:
The construction of stereotypes, advertising, publicity, social media, gaming, music, etc

5) Resistance:
Efforts to regulate the way Hollywood presents enemies; activism/protests/boycotts aimed at particular portrayals of enemies; case studies of progressive portrayals of enemies

The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, best practice showcases, how-to sessions, live demonstrations, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.

What to Send:
Proposals will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2015. If a proposal is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper of no more than 3000 words should be submitted by Friday 10th July 2015. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: HW3 Proposal Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Rob Fisher:

The conference is part of the Diversity and Recognition programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

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