Still 'Enemies at the Gate'? The Iconography of Russia and Russians in Post-Cold-War Hollywood Films

Dr. Elizabeth Goering,
Dr. Andrea Krause
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As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, the need for competent intercultural communication increases. One challenge in communicating effectively with people from diverse cultures is that cross-cultural interactions necessarily are filtered through one's own perceptions about the other culture, perceptions which are often incomplete or inaccurate. Consequently, understanding the communicative processes through which cultural perceptions are created and recreated is important.

From a Symbolic Interactionist perspective, cultural perceptions can be seen as part of the "symbolic consciousness" arising out of symbolic interaction. While shared meanings, or cultural perceptions, arise from a wide range of communicative activity, ranging from direct contact with individuals from the other culture, to classroom, peer, or family interaction about the culture, in the absence of personal contact, media plays a particularly and increasingly important role in this process.

Media in general and films in particular serve significant sociopolitical and psychopolitical functions (Monaco, 2000). Because films are mass produced, they reach wide audiences, thus providing individual, personal connections to the worlds represented in the movies as well as contributing to the building of cultural myths that become part of a culture's shared experience. Monaco (2000, p. 282) explains, "Film has been powerfully mythopoeic... shap[ing] — and even exaggerate[ing] — our national myths and therefore our sense of ourself." Shaheen (2000) extends Monaco's argument, observing that films not only create "national myths" about our nation-self, they also create myths about other cultures.

This presentation explores the ways in which cultural perceptions are re/created through film, focusing specifically on Hollywood representations of Russia and Russians. Focusing the study in this way allows one to examine if and how the iconography of Russia has changed in Hollywood films as political relationships between the two countries have changed.

Keywords: Cross-Cultural Perceptions, Visual Semiotics and Film, Symbolic Interaction
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Still Enemies at the Gate?

Dr. Elizabeth Goering

Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Dr. Andrea Krause

Chair, Department of English, Hesston College, Hesston, Kansas

Ref: H05P0304