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A Crack The Cold War Consensus: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment
Published 2009 · Sociology
Abstract Popular culture generally, and motion pictures in particular, help shape the manner in which people view their world. In post-war America, as giant corporations increasingly came to dominate the economic landscape, the public had little first-hand knowledge of the world of corporate executives. A number of corporation films helped fill that void and offered a consistently reassuring image to moviegoers. Corporations were both complex and challenging, yet offered the possibility of hope, even redemption. That hopeful consensus was shattered in 1960 with the appearance of BillyWilder’s The Apartment. Instead of finding redemption within the corporation, the movie’s protagonist could maintain integrity only through emancipation.The requirement to create a separate peace apart from the institutions maintaining the status quo became, during the decade of the 1960s, a recurring image. By the 1970s, the depiction of corporate executives as evil and villainous became more common.This article offers a detailed analysis of the movie that helped crack the ColdWar consensus and served as a harbinger of a far less optimistic view of corporations and their role in society.