Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 20 - Cold War, Globalization and the Rise of U.S. Hegemony

In order to facilitate discussion on this week's topics, I would like you to view two films. Both released in 1964 during a particularly `hot' phase of the Cold War, Dr Strangelove and Fail Safe. Each presents an argument for the possibility of accidental nuclear war (Strangelove through a case of human error, Fail Safe via mechanical failure). Whilst I don't argue that these two films represent a totality of opinion (indeed, see the third option for a counter argument). Rather, what I would like you to think about as you go through these films is what sorts of assumptions were the directors making during the the production of these movies? What sort of cultural programming do they assume their audiences will possess in order to make the films effective? Also consider how the main characters are presented -- how does each film portray the office of the President and its incumbent? Other angles to consider, for instance, are how official support for these films affected what they had to say. Strangelove had considerable access to the US military, its facilities, and its equipment whilst Fail Safe was made in the face of stiff opposition from the same (and had to sneak footage of the Hustler bombers it recycles throughout). Finally, think about how these films present their messages to you, an audience viewing them 40 years later.

Dr Strangelove; Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Stanley Kubrick, director.

Fail Safe (1964). Sidney Lumet, director.

For interest's sake, have a look if you can at Bombers B-52 (or you could look at Gathering of Eagles) which gives quite a different perspective in a very similar package.

Finally, it is certainly worth having a look at the documents linked from the main page for this week -- they will also give good perspective on what we will be discussing.