Robin Wood lists 12 American values of classic Hollywood movies


Film thinker Robin Wood made a list of 12 American values featured in classic Hollywood movies that represented the funadmental ideology of American filmmaking, in his 1976 paper “Ideology, Genre, Auteur.” In it, he specified the list as being “more specifically, the values and assumptions so insistently embodied in and reinforced by the classical Hollywood cinema.” It’s interesting to observe, or use this list, as a starting point for a debate on whether or not things have changed in contemporary cinema; or how they have changed and, if so, whether they have changed by much. Here they are presented in an abridged form:

1) Capitalism, the right of ownership, private enterprise, personal initiative; the settling of the land;

2) The work ethic: the notion that “honest toil” is in itself and for itself morally admirable, this and (1) both validating and reinforcing each other;

3) Marriage […] further validation […] – the homestead is built for the Woman, whose function is to embody civilized values and guarantee their continuance through her children – and an extension of the ownership principle in a male-dominated society;

4a) Nature as agrarianism […];

4b) Nature as the wilderness […];

5) Progress, technology, the city;

6) Success/wealth. A value of which Hollywood ideology is also deeply ashamed, so that, while hundreds of films play on its allure, very few can allow themselves to openly extol it. […]

7) The Rosebud syndrome. Money isn’t everything; money corrupts; the poor are happier. A very convenient assumption for capitalist ideology: the more oppressed you are, the happier you are;

8) America as the land where everyone actually is/can be happy; […] Above all, this assumption gives us that most striking and persistent of all classical Hollywood phenomena, the Happy Ending […];

9) The Ideal Male: the virile adventurer, potent, untrammeled man of action;

10) The Ideal Female: wife and mother, perfect companion, endlessly dependable, mainstay of hearth and home; Since these combine into an Ideal Couple of quite staggeringly incompatibility, each has his/her shadow, giving us:

11) The settled husband/father, dependable but dull;

12) The erotic woman, fascinating but dangerous, liable to betray the hero or turn into a black panther.

What do you think? Let us know. (To read the full paper, go to


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