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June 9, 2004

Mo[u]rning and Memory

Because I'm in the habit of not watching TV (a bad habit--I must break it), I've managed to avoid most of the Reagan nostalgia for the last few days, but I have been fascinated by the number of interesting blog entries that attempt to come to grips with Reagan's legacy. I share in this attempt to set the record straight regarding Reagan's presidency, espeically regarding AIDS, Nicaragua, taxes, and so on. But I'm more intrigued by two other interrelated aspects of the Reagan story, both of which have more to do with representations of Reagan, or more broadly representations of Reagan's America.

In "Mo[u]rning in America," The Cinetrix describes the experience of re-watching Reagan's famous 1984 campaign video, "Morning in America." I vaguely remember watching this video during the Republican convention when I was a teenager. I didn't have the critical thinking skills back then to really understand politcal rhetoric, but I remember the images having a powerful effect on me as a viewer. As the cinetrix points out, Reagan still stands as our "most cinematic" president, with his carefully scripted performances and his perfectly framed photo ops (Reagan as cowboy, Reagan as farmer, Reagan as jokester).

More recently, we have another version of Reagan. As Ryan asks, "What, for example, does it mean to remember a president whose death was cause by a disease whose primary feature is a loss of memory?" Ryan's suggestion, linking the cultural memory of Reagan to a tendency towards nostalgia (itself a major element of the Reagan image), makes some sense to me. Reagan has been virtually invisibe for the last ten years, making almost no public appearances over the last ten years, and I think that adds to the outpouring of nostalgia that has become attached to his image.

I'm not sure I can quite synthesize these two related ideas into anything particularly new, but they struck me as closely related points that belong side by side. Reagan's cinematic presidency seems to fit readily onto the attempts to remember Reagan.

Posted by chuck at June 9, 2004 6:25 PM

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