SOCIOL 19 SEM 4: Fiat Lux Freshman Seminar: Sociology of Cinema: Hit Movies, 1920 to 2010:
Focus on how New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have been depicted in hit movies.
W 09:00A -- 10:50A (every alternate Wed, starting week 1)
Halle, David (
This course aims to look for relationships between the dominant themes in hit movies and features of
American society at the time the movies were
We focus this quarter on how New York, Los Angeles and
Chicago have been depicted in hit movies. We will study the main topics/themes in the hit movies and investigate
the ways in which these topics/themes resonate with society in that period. We are especially interested in how the
central topics/themes in these movies change from one period to the next (if they do) and in figuring out how these
changes relate to changes in America politics, society and culture (if they do).
We focus on hit movies because it is plausible to assume that a popular movie resonates, at least somewhat, with
the tastes and attitudes of sections of the public at the time.
The dominant themes of hit movies, therefore, should
tell us something about popular culture and American society of the period. By contrast, a movie that is not popular
might simply reflect the tastes of the movie producer/director, rather than of the public.
. Below is a list of the hit movies that feature New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This list is the core
around which the course is organized
Below that is a general list of the
most popular movies for almost every
year, starting with 1920. I will also make available to you an electronic version of the second list,in Excel
It is not entirely complete (i.e. only goes to 2005) but will be useful. It is called
For 1947 onward, the hit lists are based on box office receipts as reported in
and are quite
reliable and reasonably straightforward. But before 1947 box office receipts were not reported/kept and so figuring
out which are the most popular movies for those earlier years is not so easy, though it can be done. The core lists
that I have constructed already represents quite a lot of
Below I discuss some of the
methodological issues involved in getting accurate data on the financial success of movies from before 1947.
This is a seminar and so students are expected to take an active role. Further, the
class will be doing real research since I do not believe that anyone has ever done what we are doing i.e relate hit
movies over time in a systematic way to American society.
For this class we will focus on the way
New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have been
depicted in hit movies
. There are, respectively the first, second and third largest (by population) cities in the
United States. This is a tremendously interesting project which has obvious relevance for us, located as we are in