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Waitin' on the Ghost of Tom Joad: The Neoliberal Reconstruction of the Great Depression Years in Cinderella Man

Fabián Orán Llarena


This paper intends to examine the political rationality of neoliberalism through the Depression Era film Cinderella Man (Ron Howard, 2005). While neoliberalism has been widely mapped out, critiqued, and debated in a host of academic disciplines, the myriad forms American film has articulated, represented, and integrated neoliberal narratives remains a largely understudied issue within the field of cultural studies. The present contribution addresses, through a close filmic analysis, the set of discursive strategies by which neoliberalism reenacts and renarrativizes previous ideological, political, and cultural heritages. I argue that Cinderella Man ‘neoliberalizes’ the Great Depression, highlighting individualism and resilience while totemic questions such as class identity, the legitimacy of deregulated capitalism, and the specific causes and origins of the Depression are rendered either invisible or peripheral. Taking the notion of Gramscian hegemony as the overarching theoretical principle, I draw on a variety of theorists that have inquired into the underpinnings and logics of neoliberal thinking —namely Wendy Brown (2016), Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval (2014), and David Harvey (1990). Thus, the aim of this article is to analyze Cinderella Man as a neoliberal filmic text which significantly departs from the normative ideological, political, and cultural imaginaries historically associated with the Great Depression. 


film Studies; neoliberalism; hegemony; resilience; Great Depression

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Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies

ISSN: 1137-6368