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God's Law and the Wide Screen: The Ten Commandments as Cold War "Epic"

Alan Nadel
PMLA
Vol. 108, No. 3 (May, 1993), pp. 415-430
DOI: 10.2307/462612
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462612
Page Count: 16
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God's Law and the Wide Screen: The Ten Commandments as Cold War "Epic"
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Abstract

Cecil B. deMille's Ten Commandments can be read as a major product of American cold war ideology, highlighting and localizing the foci of America's political, theological, and economic conflicts. The apparatus of wide-screen technology resolves these conflicts visually by mediating a series of gazes in an economy that equates God's perspective with American interests during the cold war and those interests with the rigidity of gender roles, the commodification of women, the representation of "true" Jews as proto-Christians, and the reclamation of the Middle East as legitimately within the American (Christian) sphere of influence. In making "truth" and "freedom" contingent on Christian doctrine, deMille distinguishes himself from the filmmakers investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and, as the son of a would-be minister turned playwright, he also redeems himself for being a maker of false images by suggesting that the supplementary status of film can allow the true representation of God's Word.

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