I recently stumbled across a treasure trove of books I didn’t know were in my possession. By chance I turned to the epilogue of the first one I picked up, saw a 60-year-old picture of Ronald Reagan, and read a tribute that reflects the central thesis of what made our country special while validating how far the entertainment industry has fallen from the beaten path.
“The American image is still one that celebrates freedom, space, and opportunity. It turns sour, as it has in contemporary films, when those virtues are denied or perverted. Today’s Hollywood is quick to exploit the sourness, the disillusion, and the cynicism, but for all that Americans still like to think of themselves in terms of John Wayne. Wayne took a rapping from youngsters in the seventies, but as those youngsters have grown older they tend to share the regret that the Duke is gone. The mood of America as it entered the eighties was markedly conservative.
“The election of Ronald Reagan to the highest office in the land is an affirmation of the American return to conservatism. Reagan himself was of the generation of the Hollywood macho giants. He came from that age of American innocence in which a man could make it on his way – without government help or hindrance, by God! Reagan was well in line with the good old American image. He came from a working family, worked his way through college, excelled at football, got a job as a sports announcer in small-time radio, and worked his way up. . . .
“What could be more American? The story of Ronald Reagan is itself like a Hollywood movie of the Golden Age. The fact that the American public elected him is strong evidence of an almost desperate yearning for the images of the American past. The fact that such a yearning exists gives hope that all is not lost. The Spirit of ’76 may be battered, but it is not moribund.”
– from Hollywood and the American Image  by Tony Thomas