One Big Happy Family? Subverting Reaganism in Peggy Sue Got Married


While much critical analysis has been done on films made during Ronald Reagan’s two terms in the White House (1980-1988), that have been labeled “Reaganite cinema,” Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) has received limited attention. Most scholars have focused on how the film promotes traditional family values, i.e. the reinstatement of the nuclear family headed by a strong, patriarchal father figure, as ensconced in Reaganism. Indeed, the distinct “pro-family” trope reasserting marriage as a worthy institution gets a neat cinematic treatment in the film. However, a closer analysis reveals that the film also reflects Reagan’s championing of “new patriotism,” as well as the reactionary backlash against women’s rights causes and the appropriation of sexual expression only within the contexts of marriage and procreation. In addition, because Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) makes the seemingly fatalistic choice of reuniting with her estranged husband Charlie (Nicolas Cage), despite the fact that independent relationship alternatives are available, the film suggest that even a conservative’s approach to social issues might be far more nuanced than what the mythologized Reagan storyline suggests. This paper compares PSGM with Robert Zemeckis’s 1985 film Back to the Future, examines its attempts to reunite the nuclear family, how reflects the “greed is good” mentality that was prevalent during Reagan’s presidency, and how it seems to both promote and challenge Reaganism. The subversive deconstruction of Reaganism may not be readily apparent, but it becomes evident as the film is viewed more than a quarter of a century after its release.

Author Information
Douglas Forster, Japan Women's University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: FilmAsia2013
Stream: Film

This paper is part of the FilmAsia2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Forster D. (2014) One Big Happy Family? Subverting Reaganism in Peggy Sue Got Married ISSN: 2187-5294 – The Asian Conference on Film and Documentary 2013 – Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon