Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Thomas J. Slater, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ronald Emerick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mike Sell, Ph.D.


The Depiction of the Working Class in American Films of the Counterculture Era explores the rendering of the working class by Hollywood between 1967 and 1982. This dissertation discusses how this unique and volatile epoch was interpreted by Hollywood, and how the roles of working-class characters evolved with the shifting economic and political landscapes. The dissertation also demonstrates that although Hollywood temporarily experimented with some new models and narratives as it encouraged fresh creative talent in the early 1970s in a period known as the Hollywood Renaissance, the film industry never strayed too far from its roots. As the country moved back to the right in the early 1970s, Hollywood quickly returned to a more classic and conservative cinema. As this work demonstrates, this return was best reflected in the rendering of the working class. In addition to exploring how working-class characters evolved with the times, this dissertation also explores how film informed the working class view of itself. For example, the work discusses how a film like Rocky (1976) reinforced and perpetuated some workingclass views at a time when the working class felt threatened by change. The dissertation begins by exploring the history of the working class in American film. Then, by drawing on the works of film scholars and cultural critics, it explores Hollywood’s creation of the binary of the working class vs. the counterculture that emerged in the late 1960s. This binary, while generally successful at the box office, also helped to perpetuate the real division between the working class and counterculture, a division that continues as the culture wars rage on in the 21st Century.