From Pop Culture to Nuclear Debate: The Impact of The Day After in Lawrence and Kansas City
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This thesis examines the creation and response in America to the 1983 nuclear disaster film The Day After. Fueled by renewed nuclear buildup of the 1980s Cold War, the release of the movie became a worldwide sensation, but historians have often contested the overall impact of its release on the grounds of its limited influence on nuclear politics in America. This thesis analyzes the political ramifications and the cultural symbolism of The Day After from its production to its release, arguing that the importance of the film lies in its use as an influential cultural text amplifying repressed nuclear anxieties and using familiar symbolism to relay the dangers of nuclear weapons to a large public audience and sensationalist media. The path from filming to release is charted through accounts from those involved in its creation and promotion, as well as media accounts in the two cities in which The Day After is based and subsequent coverage was focused - Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City. Ultimately, the movie had limited political influence due to muddled messaging within the film and intense debate between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear organizations, but the film clearly influenced the culture of the Cold War, magnifying nuclear fears and interest in the American public.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- the nuclear debate -- the creation and meaning of The Day After -- Local views of The Day After