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Dirty Harry's America"Clint Eastwood, Harry Callahan, and the Conservative Backlash"$
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Joe Street

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813061672

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813061672.001.0001

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Dirty Harry’s Sequels and the Backlash

Dirty Harry’s Sequels and the Backlash

(p.103) 4 Dirty Harry’s Sequels and the Backlash
Dirty Harry's America

Joe Street

University Press of Florida

This chapter evaluates the attempt of the Dirty Harry sequels to position Callahan as a bulwark of moderation. The chapter highlights certain key themes that run through the four Dirty Harry sequels: race, gender, sexuality, the “outsider” status of many of the villains in the series, and Callahan’s growing invulnerability. In attaching Callahan to African American, female, and Asian American partners while tackling rightwing and extremist leftwing criminals, the filmmakers hoped to reinforce Callahan’s supposedly centrist attitudes. The chapter argues that, conversely, these very attempts buttress the films’ conservative credentials. The series presents Callahan as a solid, unbending representation of the same traditional American values that are central to conservative politics in the post-1960s era. The sequels consequently render Callahan a metaphor for modern American conservatism: unbending, moral, incorruptible, and most important, always right. Consequently the chapter insists that we should approach the series as a conservative commentary on the American politics of the 1970s and 1980s. All of the sequels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, reinforcing the book’s emphasis on the films’ representation and refraction of local politics, culture and society. The Bay Area thus becomes psychogeographic entity which acts as a “straw man” for Callahan’s rejection of post-war liberalism.

Keywords:   Dirty Harry, Conservatism, San Francisco, Liberalism, Race, Gender, California

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