Ideology



READING RAMBO IDEOLOGICALLY

Thus many critics have proposed that ideology be extended to cover theories, ideas, texts, narratives, and images that legitimate domination of women and people of color by white men and that thus serve the interests of ruling powers. Such ideology critique criticizes sexist and racist ideology as well as bourgeois-capitalist class ideology. To carry out an ideology critique of Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), for instance, it wouldn't be enough simply to attack its militarist or imperialist ideology and the ways that the militarism and imperialism of the film serve capitalist interests by legitimating intervention in Southeast Asia (Kellner, 1995). To carry out a full ideology critique, one would also have to examine the film's sexism and racism, showing how representations of women, gender, the Vietnamese, the Russians, and so on are a fundamental part of the ideological text of Rambo .

In regard to gender, for instance, one might note that Rambo instantiates a masculinist image of gender that defines masculinity in terms of the male warrior with the features of great strength, effective use of force, and military heroism as the highest expression of life. Symptomatically, the woman characters in the film are either whores, or, in the case of a Vietnamese contra, a handmaiden to Rambo's exploits who functions primarily as a seductive force, seducing Vietnamese guards (a figure also central to the image of woman in The Green Berets , 1968), or a destructive one, when she becomes a woman warrior, a female version of Rambo. Significantly, the only moment of eroticism in Rambo

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982).
(brief and chaste) comes when Rambo and his woman agent kiss after great warrior feats. Seconds after the kiss, the woman herself is shot and killed—the moral being that the male warrior must go it alone and must thus renounce women and sexuality. This theme obviously fits into the militarist and masculinist theme of the film as well as the representation of ascetic male heroes who must rise above sexual temptation in order to become maximally effective saviors or warriors.

The representations and thematics of race also contribute fundamentally to the militarist theme. The Vietnamese and Russians are presented as alien Others, as embodiments of Evil, in a typically Hollywood manichean scenario that presents the Other, the Enemy, "Them," as evil and "Us," the good guys, as virtuous, heroic, good, and innocent. Rambo appropriates stereotypes of the evil Japanese and Germans from World War II movies in its representations of the Vietnamese and the Russians, thus continuing the manichean Hollywood tradition of substituting past icons of evil for contemporary villains. The Vietnamese are portrayed as duplicitous bandits, ineffectual dupes of the evil Soviets, and cannon fodder for Rambo's exploits, while the Soviets are presented as sadistic torturers and inhuman, mechanistic bureaucrats.

The stereotypes of race and gender in Rambo are so exaggerated, so crude, that they point to the artificial and socially constructed nature of all ideals of masculinity, femininity, race, and ethnicity. Thus, expanding the concept of ideology to include race and sex helps provide a multidimensional ideology critique, which expands radical cultural criticism while enriching the project of ideology critique.

Ideologies should be analyzed within the context of social struggle and political debate rather than simply as purveyors of false consciousness whose falsity is exposed and denounced by ideology critique. A diagnostic ideology critique looks behind the façade of ideology to see the social and historical forces and struggles that require it and to examine the cinematic apparatus and strategies that make ideologies attractive. Such a model of ideology criticism is not solely denunciatory; it also looks for socially critical and oppositional moments within all ideological texts, including conservative ones. As feminists and others have argued, one should learn to read texts "against the grain," yielding progressive insights even from reactionary texts.

SEE ALSO Marxism ; Propaganda

Adorno, T. W., and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment . New York: Seabury, 1972.

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays . London: New Left Books, 1971.

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies , edited and translated by Annette Levers. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Illuminations . Edited by Hannah Arendt. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968, 217–251. The original essay was published in 1934.

Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986.

Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks . London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971.

Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society . Boston and London: Blackwell, 1992.

Heath, Stephen, Questions of Cinema . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

Jameson, Fredric. "Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture." Social Text 1 (Winter 1979): 130–148.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. The Essential Lenin . New York: Dover, 1987.

Kellner, Douglas. Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity . Cambridge, UK, and Baltimore, MD: Polity Press and John Hopkins University Press, 1989.

——. Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity, and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern . London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

——, and Michael Ryan. Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Metz, Christian, Language and Cinema . The Hague: Mouton, 1974.

Nichols, Bill. Ideology and the Image: Social Representations in the Cinema and Other Media . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

Douglas Kellner



Other articles you might like:

Follow City-Data.com Founder
on our Forum or Twitter

Also read article about Ideology from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA