All posts by Shannon Hervey

I teach PWR 1: The Rhetoric of Containment: Cold War American Culture Post 9/11 at Stanford University in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

Charlie Wilson’s War & Masters of Sex

Since September 11th 2001, U.S. American Culture has returned in a variety of ways to Cold War era rhetoric. While the political policies of the U.S. are clear indications of this return, American popular culture has been bombarded with rich examples of this return as well. Two of my favorites are the film Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) and the Showtime seriesĀ Masters of Sex (2013 – ). 26996318502_76d1b09be5_b

Masters of Sex is a show set in the 1950s and 1960s that only loosely portrays the lives of real life scientists, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. I think this show very intelligently depicts an American society simultaneously obsessed with and terrified by sex. Because of the strict social prescriptions of the time, Dr. William Masters’ investigation into the field of sexual pleasure (and psychology, I would add) were thought of as extremely unsavory, though the show does a great job at communicating why such studies were (and are) sorely needed. The importance placed on the nuclear family ideal, and the social pressures to adhere to this ideal, are also made central. The studies of human sexuality alongside the depiction of how suffocating nuclear family ideals could (can) be gives way to a sophisticated feminist critique of gender norms by interrogating gender assumptions.


Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) is based on a true story about how an American congressman, a CIA agent, and a Texan philanthropist form an alliance to raise funds for Afghan freedom fighters in their war against invading Soviets (taking place in 1980). The efforts of these three Americans sets the precedent for future U.S. support of other anti-communist resistance movements in other countries. What I find so compelling about this film is the chilling conclusion: the U.S. equipped the Afghan freedom fighters with an incredible amount of money toward weaponry, but saw no point in thinking about future unintended consequences of this exorbitant aid. Basically, the operation was either short sighted or cut short. As an American audience in 2007, we’re aware of the tragic repercussions and wonder whether the “War On Terror” would have come to be had the 1980s American government responded differently to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Russians refused to show the film.



Hello, PWR 1 students! I’m excited to meet you all next week. This course website and blog allows us to continue sharing ideas and having conversations outside of the classroom setting. I’ll soon be inviting each of you to become “authors” so that you can create your own posts to share ideas and/or ask questions. Although I’m encouraging students to post whenever they feel so inclined, there are five required out-of-class postings throughout the term (see course syllabus for details), and there will also be occasion to work on blog posts during class. I’m hoping that this will become a space of lively conversation and collegiate participation.