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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

Dr Paul Moody
Dr Paul Moody - Paul is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, with research interests in British cinema history, Hollywood and US cultural diplomacy, emerging digital media, and the horror film. He is also a digital media practitioner whose work has won awards at international festivals. Paul's most recent monograph, EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema (2018), develops the first historical analysis of the largest British film company of the 1970s, EMI Films. The book argues that EMI’s amorphous nature as a ‘transnational’ film company problematizes traditional approaches to the creation of cultural ‘canons’ and the definition of ‘national culture’, with one reviewer commenting that it makes a ‘very significant contribution not only to British cinema history but also to British cultural history in general’. Paul's work on the company’s output is an ongoing research interest and currently, he is developing a project with the British Film Institute on the career of EMI Films’ first Head of Production, Bryan Forbes, analysing his work as part of a wider examination of how polymathic artists can be interpreted by cultural historians. Paul's other current research interest focuses on the connections between Hollywood and the U.S. Department of State's global network of embassies. His work in this field has been published in Media, Culture and Society and the International Journal of Communication, and he is completing a monograph on this topic provisionally titled The US Embassy-Hollywood Complex. In this book, Paul employs archival records from the US State Department to question existing theories of globalization which present state sovereignty in decline vis-à-vis ‘globalizing’ media companies. He argues that instead, these examples show how the US government has supported Hollywood’s global economic interests using a variety of strategies and tactics, problematizing 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.

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Project last modified 14/11/2023