Not a History Lesson: The Erasure of Politics in American Cinema


  • Sherry B. Ortner


There is a long-standing distinction in Hollywood between “entertainment” and everything else. The “everything else” includes among other things any direct address of political subjects, which are assumed to turn American audiences off. This article presents both an ethnographic account of this Hollywood ideology and an examination of several recent films in terms of their different strategies for erasing politics, both narratively and visually. It also reviews some of the theories of how this ideology became hegemonic in the world of American film, and how it plays out at different historical periods.