Social Critiques in the 1960’s Political Satire Boom

I am researching the 1960’s  influx of American black comedy and satirical films which profoundly affected the entertainment medium as well as society itself.  Analyzing and mapping the influence such films had on the film industry and American culture is integral to understanding the full psychological and societal effects of Cold War rhetoric on citizens.

Humor has always offered an outlet for myriad emotions, however when artists express political frustration through humor their work usually evolves into a satirical work. Satire is a medium that allows artists to be critical of societal institutions while simultaneous expressing the feelings of anxiety, fear, and insecurity, in a humorous way. Most academic discussion around the so-called ‘satire boom’ of the 1960’s, revolves around the notion that the presence of these films reflected a changing popular opinion of capitalism and American foreign policy. Humor was mixed with comments on the fear and anxiety surrounding the ever-present threat of nuclear devastation to create some incredibly black comedies during this time period that reflected that growing shift in cultural attitudes. However, through the viewing of these films I’ve found that the more important target of their jokes is rather the social norms of the era.  In this way, satirical films caused the audiences of the 1960’s to not only look critically at the government, military, and nuclear politics, but to also turn that critical gaze upon themselves. My research focuses specifically on such critiques made by specifically on Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961), Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and Norman Jewison’s The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966).



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