A big thanks to CHOICE magazine who are highlighting 2 UPK books in their August issue.
Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Political Dissent Through Popular Culture, edited by Timothy M. Dale and Joseph L. Foy explores the transformative power that enables popular culture to influence political agendas, frame the consciousness of audiences, and create profound shifts in values and ideals.
Political scientists Dale (Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay) and Foy (Univ. of Wisconsin, Waukesha) tapped scholars from a variety of disciplines to assess the sundry ways that popular culture can be a vehicle for political and social dissent. The essays traverse a broad swath of the cultural landscape, stopping to address both such familiar scholarly preoccupations as The Daily Show and hip-hop music and more evanescent cultural artifacts such as the little-seen film 25th Hour and the short-lived postapocalyptic television series Jericho. The collection suffers from its cramped characterization of protest and dissent as being “progressive by their very nature,” a definition that elides both historical and contemporary examples of popular culture spurring or abetting conservative populist insurgencies. That most of the authors are fans of the programs and genres they explore is apparent in their propensity to treat, on occasion, even the most banal elements of their subjects as possessing significant import. Nonetheless, the essays can help beginning scholars appreciate the ways that subversive political and social ideas can inform even the most seemingly disposable of cultural products. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. — R. P. Seyb, Skidmore College (Reprinted with permission of Choice, copyright 2010, American Library Association)
Hollywood’s War With Poland, 1939-1945 by M.B.B. Biskupski draws on a close study of prewar and wartime films such as To Be or Not to Be (1942), In Our Time (1944), and None Shall Escape (1944) to explore the negative portrayal of Poland during World War II. Biskupski also examines the political climate that influenced Hollywood films.
So few films sympathetic to the fate of Poland and its people were made during WW II that a book about this subject might seem to be a waste of time. However, this passionate, carefully researched, richly detailed, well-written study draws fair, persuasive, and important large conclusions from an extremely limited film corpus. Biskupski (Central Connecticut State Univ.) scoured every film in which Poland or Poles played any role, noting every omission, misstatement of fact, and caricatural portrayal. Through painstaking attention to evolution of plot elements in successive scripting stages through to the finished product, the author shows that misrepresentation of Poland’s wartime struggles was not the result of chance. Rather, widespread indifference to a nearly invisible ethnic minority in the US, coupled with governmental and Hollywood support for the Soviet Union (the US’s most important military ally against Nazi Germany), led to shameful neglect of Polish suffering–and ultimately support for the geopolitical ambitions of Stalin’s postwar designs. Left-leaning and communist sympathizers wrote scripts slighting Polish heroic efforts to resist the Nazis; scripts were approved by official agencies since they conformed to the Roosevelt administration’s foreign policies. Well-reproduced images, copious notes, and a first-rate bibliography provide excellent support and resources for further study. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. — S. Liebman, CUNY Graduate Center (Reprinted with permission of Choice, copyright 2010, American Library Association)