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Best for fun class: Politics and Film

Sage Russell | Assistant Photo Editor
Professor Elisabeth Anker sits with a “Dune: Part Two” popcorn bucket and other movie snacks.

Readers’ pick: Politics and Film

The face of a breathy Harrison Ford fills up the wall-sized screen, looming over a 200-person lecture hall on a brisk Monday night.

He plays the president of the United States, embroiled in a battle against a group of Kazakh ultranationalists who hijacked Air Force One in a film aptly titled “Air Force One.” Ford’s character — a president who also happened to be a Vietnam helicopter pilot who won the Medal of Honor — wraps a parachute cord around the villain played by Gary Oldman and deploys the chute, breaking the terrorist’s neck.

“Get off my plane,” Ford said victoriously as a handful of enraptured students let out woots while Oldman’s body flies off the jet. 

Thus concludes the first screening of Politics and Film, an American Studies course that tackles the intersection between filmmaking and dominant American political concepts like liberty, neoliberalism and individualism. 

Taught by the passionate professor Elisabeth Anker, the course addresses classic depictions of democracy in films like “12 Angry Men,” as well as contemporary reckonings with issues like climate change in “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.”

The course effortlessly ties in the writers and thinkers who helped shape and understand those ideals: How do Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations of American democracy manifest as themes in “The Dark Knight”? How did John Stuart Mill and Henry David Thoreau influence the melodramas of Douglas Sirk? How can modern American films like “Selma” exemplify the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr.?

The class features a typical Monday afternoon lecture followed by a same-day viewing of the relevant film of the week that night. Weekly small-group discussions help weave the ideas together. 

The course will rip even the most avid cinephiles from their comfort zones — not many have seen the 1983 dystopian feminist film “Born in Flames” by the director Lizzie Borden. And no, she’s not that Lizzie Borden.

Creativity is a must for the course, especially in the final research paper. The project is your chance to think outside the box and write a paper about, for example, how Cameron Frye from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” emblematizes one’s endless pursuit of liberty. It got me an A, after all.

Anker’s class is immensely fulfilling — so fill up the popcorn buckets and grab some Jujyfruit, you have a movie to watch.

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About the Contributor
Zach Blackburn, Editor in Chief
Zach, a senior majoring in political communication, is the 2023-24 editor in chief of The Hatchet. He previously served as senior news editor and assistant news editor of the Metro beat. He hails from West Columbia, South Carolina.
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