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Pleasing EveryoneMass Entertainment in Renaissance London and Golden-Age Hollywood$
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Jeffrey Knapp

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190634063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190634063.001.0001

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The Real John Doe

The Real John Doe

(p.67) 2 The Real John Doe
Pleasing Everyone

Jeffrey Knapp

Oxford University Press

“Masses is a herd term—unacceptable, insulting, degrading,” the film director Frank Capra once proclaimed, yet his 1941 Meet John Doe seems to tell a different story about the masses and the entertainments they consume. In that film, the fascist owner of a media conglomerate promotes a folksy character named John Doe whose vague and sentimental platitudes win him an immense popularity, which the media titan hopes to exploit in order to propel himself into the presidency. Yet the seemingly witless man who masquerades as Doe ends up getting inspired by the part he plays, and Capra similarly transforms Doe’s career into an implicit argument that his own “Capra-corn” is inherently on the side both of democracy and of the individual.

Keywords:   Mass man, Fascism, Uncommon common man, Inarticulacy, Self-alienation, Identification, Mediation, Frank Capra, Meet John Doe

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