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The US Embassy-Hollywood Complex

In an article for Foreign Affairs at the outbreak of World War II, film producer Walter Wanger referred to Hollywood movies as ‘120,000 American ambassadors’. The pre-eminence of Hollywood in presenting U.S. ideology to the world has been asserted ever since, with Hollywood’s relationship with Washington strengthening to such a degree that the epithet ‘Washwood’ is now frequently used to describe the industry.

While there have been some significant studies that place this relationship in a fuller socioeconomic context, the importance of America’s actual ambassadors, employed by the global network of American embassies, has rarely been investigated, despite the key role that this often-overlooked aspect of the U.S. state apparatus played in the maintenance of Hollywood’s commercial interests and American cultural imperialism throughout the twentieth century.

This project will investigate primary sources from the U.S. National Archive and Records Administration (NARA), to reveal the relationship between the U.S. Department of State, its global network of embassies, and Hollywood during key examples from the Cold War. It will question what these examples uncover about the development of Hollywood in the latter half of the twentieth century and its receipt of state support, and will provide a novel challenge to existing theories of globalization, which present state sovereignty in decline vis-à-vis ‘globalizing’ media companies. My project will suggest that instead, these examples show how the U.S. government has supported Hollywood’s economic interests in other countries using a variety of strategies and tactics, and while not always successful, this activity problematizes attempts to explain Hollywood’s cultural dominance solely as a product of its wide public appeal or as a result of laissez-faire economic policy.


  • Moody, P. (2019) 'The US embassy-Hollywood complex: The Sony Pictures hack and 21st century media imperialism', in Mirrlees, T. and Boyd-Barrett, O. (eds.) Media Imperialism: Continuity and Change. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  • Moody, P. (2017) 'Embassy cinema: What WikiLeaks reveals about US state support for Hollywood'. Media Culture and Society, 39 (7). pp. 1063 - 1077. ISSN: 1460-3675

  • Moody, P. (2017) 'US Embassy Support for Hollywood’s Global Dominance: Cultural Imperialism Redux'. International Journal of Communication, 11. pp. 2912 - 2925. ISSN: 1932-8036

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Project last modified 05/07/2021