Study Guide

Dr. Strangelove Visions of America: The Cold War

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Visions of America: The Cold War

This mega-tense period of world history started not long after WWII ended, when former allies the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. started squaring off over territory, control, and political economic policies.

The Soviets feared the U.S. would use its nuclear capabilities to attack them and the U.S. (the only country with a nuclear weapon at that point) was convinced that the Soviets would stop at nothing less than total world domination. The Soviets developed their own nuclear weapon in 1949.There was paranoia everywhere that communists were infiltrating the government and media. The House Un-American Activities Committee dragged citizens to hearings where they were asked to name names of associates who might be communists. Writers, filmmakers, and actors were blacklisted if they refused to betray their allegedly Communist buddies when interrogated by commie-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Everyone was going a little nuts.This heated rivalry led to a massive build-up of nuclear weapons; for the first time we had the power to obliterate ourselves. The military doctrine of "Mutually Assured Destruction" (don't you just love that phrase?) reflected the new reality. The intent was to scare each other into realizing that there was no point to starting a thermonuclear war because it would lead to an extinction-level disaster. Even so, there was still enormous anxiety about the dangers of this nuclear age. Books and films presented possible terrifying scenarios if a nuclear war was started by accident or if the Soviets decided they just had to rule the world. This was the context for Dr. Strangelove.

Questions About Visions of America: The Cold War

  1. How is American foreign policy during the Cold War represented in the film?
  2. Would you say the depiction of the Soviets is fair? Why, or why not?
  3. In what ways is the film critical of Cold War era military leaders? Are there any ways in which it seems to support them?
  4. How realistic are the events in the film? How possible was it for something like this to happen during the Cold War era?

Chew on This

Dr. Strangelove presents a nightmarish scenario that was very close to becoming a reality during the Cold War era.

The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction was an effective deterrent to either side using the hydrogen bomb.

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