Film Theory: Ideological Approach–Marx, Althusser

Film Theory: IDEOLOGY

For Karl Marx, the concept of ideology referred to the ideological components of all bourgeois institutions and modes of production.

However, recent film scholars and critics have followed Althusser for whom ideology is a series of representations and images, reflecting the conceptions of “reality” that any society assumes.

Ideology thus is no longer limited to beliefs that people consciously hold, but to the myths that a society lives by, myths that refer to some natural, unproblematic “reality.”

For an interesting discussion of ideology, see Bill Nichols, Ideology and the Image, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

What matters more, the apparent subversion of dominant ideology, or the restoration of it?

That’s a dilemma for film theory and film practice.


Every film, even the most commercial and lightly entertaining studio fare (Disney pictures), is also political and ideological.

Take the 1990 smash hit romantic comedy, Pretty Woman, which catapulted Julia Roberts to major Stardom.

Loosely based on the Pygmalion myth (which was used in several plays and films), Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman is on the surfer a romantic feature about the love affair between a rich but detached businessman (Richard Gere) and a good-hearted, ditzy prostitute (Julia Roberts).  At first, she is hired as a a paid escort, sort of a companion.

Feminists critics claim that this was yet another case of Hollywood’s male supremacy, reducing the heroine to a sex object, a passive femme who needs to be elevated-saved-rescued by prince charming (a re-working of another mythic fable, Cinderella).