Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

First Advisor

Allan McBride

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


In a modern age dominated by technology, the role of entertainment such as film is steadily growing in American culture and politics. Film and politics “inform” one another, meaning that film reflects the politics within a society in which they are placed (Christensen & Haas 2005). Using this as justification, the central research question of this thesis is, "What is the political content of popular films of the 2000s in terms of authority, and what does this suggest about the culture and view on authority of the Millennials as a generation?" A content analysis of popular films from 2000-2009 was done to answer this question, and Thompson, Ellis, and Wildavsky's Cultural Theory (1990), which aims to explain why people want what they do and why people perceive the world the way that they do, served as a basis for the research. The theory supports four main categories, or ways of life in which the role of government of lack thereof is distinguished: hierarchy, egalitarianism, fatalism, and individualism. Guided by this theory, twenty-one of the bestselling films from 2000-2009 were viewed, and six scenes from each were coded for the ways in which authority, as well as conflict, blame, and conflict resolution, were portrayed. The final product is a systematic analysis of popular film of the most recent decade, and it is concluded that American Exceptionalism is still an accurate description of American culture.