Dr. Strangelove's America: Society/Cutlture in Atomic Age

Margot A. Henriksen, Author University of California Press $49.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-520-08310-3
In a cultural study of the 25 years following Hiroshima, Henriksen begins by examining (though never neatly defining) the 1950s ""culture of dissent."" Henriksen, who teaches history at the University of Hawaii, argues that in response to the technological revolution of the atomic bomb there emerged an equally revolutionary development in artistic expression that challenged the moral complacency and brutal ethics of the cold war. Together these new forms--she discusses at length film noir, science fiction movies, pulp crime, beat poetry and rock 'n' roll-- amounted to a kind of ""cultural `chaos'"" that ""mirrored the disruption of matter achieved in the technology of the atomic bomb."" Henriksen pays special attention to the new black humor including detailed synopses of Dr. Strangelove, Catch-22, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Manchurian Candidate. She ultimately concludes that the ""comic-apocalyptic sensibility"" and raucous parodying of cold-war society set the tone for the more extremist cultural rebellion of the 1960s and, moreover, that throughout those upheavals, the bomb functioned as the ""preeminent and preexisting symbol of America's ills."" If the insistence on the centrality of the bomb at times seems strained--perhaps most notably in the suggestion that fear of nuclear annihilation fueled the civil rights movement--the cultural terrain itself is compelling enough to engage the reader and to inspire re-reading or re-viewing the works discussed here. (July)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 474 pages - 978-0-520-91401-8
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