This Is a Picture and Not the World

Movies and a Post-9/11 America

By Joseph Natoli

Subjects: American Culture
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791470282, 291 pages, February 2007
Hardcover : 9780791470275, 291 pages, February 2007

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Table of contents

Behind the Scenes: A Preproduction Q & A


Outtake: Postmod Screwball




Sneak Preview: Magic Town: America’s Heartland

Documentary: The Short-Term Memory Detective

Shortscape: Never Far from Melodrama

Trailer: The Jesus Genre

This Genre Does Not Exist


American Cool



Uses satirical parodies of screenplays and political blogs to reveal the cracks in our post-9/11 American psyche.


In This Is a Picture and Not the World, Joseph Natoli employs the lingua franca of film itself—screenplay dialogue—as well as the more recent form of the political blog to present a hyperreal account of popular film as both a creator and a reflector of our post-9/11 mass psyche. Drawing on both classic and contemporary film examples, the book also offers a quasihistory of film genres, including science fiction, the western, film noir, and screwball comedy, emphasizing how these genres have been shaken up, recontextualized, recombined, turned self-reflexive, and parodied over the past couple of decades. Taken together, these satirical parodies of screenplays and blogs reveal and perform how our very gaze has shifted from modern to postmodern, from a direct view of the world to a filtered one.

Joseph Natoli teaches at the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities and in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. He is the author or editor of many books, including Memory's Orbit: Film and Culture 1999–2000 and (with Linda Hutcheon) A Postmodern Reader, both also published by SUNY Press.


"This is an extremely original and engaging book on the connections between cinema and media culture post-9/11. Employing a postmodern technique of fragmentation, Natoli cuts from a serious authorial voice to different political-cinema blogging and commentary voices, laced with satires of media-babbling by media producers, celebrities, pundits, and other species of current discourse. " — Douglas Kellner, coeditor of Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, Revised Edition

"This Is a Picture and Not the World takes the pulse of contemporary American society as filtered, represented, and expressed through Hollywood movies. Part of what makes the book a delight to read is the way it covers a great deal of ground so (seemingly) effortlessly, juggling multiple themes, points of view, and areas of interest with aplomb. One of the book's main virtues is that it manages to be accessible to the general reader, in a way that most academic books in the fields of cultural studies and film studies are not, but without sacrificing complexity or depth. " — Steven Shaviro, author of Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society