Constructing fear: images of fascism in popular film

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Liberal democracies appear to be consumed by fears of populism, authoritarianism, demagogues, xenophobia and the election of far-right political parties as harbingers of impending fascist barbarism. For some critics fascism is already deeply imbricated in popular culture, mass spectatorship, computer games, and film. A ninety-year old tradition has arraigned cinema as an unwitting accomplice of fascism through its technically organised manipulation of the emotions of mass audiences in uncertain times of social and political crisis.

But are critics simply playing with words when they call films that they find deeply unpleasant and ideologically disturbing ‘fascist’? Or is there a fascist strain in contemporary culture which popular film expresses, pointing to a wider prevalence of sadomasochism as the ground for a mass fascist revival? That fascistic elements in popular film routinely draw from a wider culture of cruelty has been a worrying concern among critics, albeit for widely varying reasons. All manner of popular film – film noir, action movies, revenge thrillers, superhero genre – have been accused of communicating fascist codes to receptive but unsuspecting audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalMedia Education Journal
VolumeWinter 2023
Issue number74
Early online date21 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2024


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