Deserts, Screens, and Empty Smiles: The Vast Wastelands of Jean Baudrillard’s ‘America’

By Michael Grasso

In the early 1980s, French philosopher, media theorist, and cultural scholar Jean Baudrillard visited the United States several times, taking in the vastness of the continent-spanning nation, from Manhattan to Manhattan Beach. In 1986, his account of these trips, America, was published in France. Two years later, the book came to the US in a translated edition. In the work, Baudrillard ruminates upon Mormons and breakdancers, fitness nuts and canned laughter on television, on all of the sources of beauty and horror of American culture and society in the 1980s…

“All Them Damn Hippies”: Joseph Sargent’s ‘White Lightning’

By K.E. Roberts

White Lightning is the first in a long line of films and TV series about righteous lawbreakers in the post-Vietnam American South, where corrupt cops chase hot-rodding bootleggers and paid-by-the-mile truckers through the meager towns and backwoods scorned by “the people in Washington,” a mythical land whose isolated, protective communities both resent and revel in their perceived marginalization…