Abstract

A set of English-language feature films, mostly released at the turn of the century, offer protagonists who do not know that they are spies. Scholars have suggested that such culture can be postmodern in theme, in clarity, and in production at the same time. But this essay shows that these films hew to norms of classical narrative and have been used to shore up a modernist sense of authorship. They follow on Jameson’s influential formulation of a postmodern aesthetic, using surreal film style to convey hallucinations and telling of protagonists who come to know that they are brainwashed. But scholarly arguments that Hollywood has sacrificed clarity to postmodern ambiguity are based on selective studies of art films and stories of insanity, and are disconfirmed by studies of these mind job films. These movies owe neither to large-scale demand for postmodern themes nor to postmodernity in financial affairs, but rather to a small group of filmmakers who took inspiration from brainwashing scares and such novelists as Burroughs and Dick. Those filmmakers emphasize their own modernist authorship by using flashy technique to tell stories of compromised agency.

Additional Information

ISSN
1053-1920
Launched on MUSE
2009-03-31
Open Access
No
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