‘Truths that tell a lie’: Race, social class and the American Dream in the sports film
If we wish to understand the functional role of film genres, it is not enough to identify the fundamental characteristics of a particular genre – as we considered in the previous chapter with regard to sports films – it is also necessary to ‘isolate the problems for which the genre provides a symbolic solution’ (Altman, 1987, p. 334). To understand the functional role of sports films, it is first necessary to examine the role of sport itself in society. As indicated in the introduction to this study, a central issue here is the utopian sensibility that both sport and film, as popular forms of entertainment, invoke, a sensibility that may ultimately obscure and mislead audiences regarding the issues touched upon within the films themselves, including race and social class. Building on the discussion in Chapter 3, the focus in this chapter will also be primarily on American film and society, as the source of the vast majority of sports themed films. However, sport’s utopian possibilities are also relevant to the representation of sport in films emerging from other national contexts, an issue explored in more detail in Chapter 6.