Dirty Harry's America:
Clint Eastwood, Harry Callahan, and the Conservative Backlash

Joe Street

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"A scrupulously detailed study of the five Dirty Harry films . . . and their huge influence on other films, television shows, and literature."--<i><b>Choice</i></b>
 
"A detailed analysis of Callahan that could pave the way for historians to consider how culture, film, and politics are interwoven."--<i><b>H-Net</i></b>
 
"Street provides a crucial critical and cultural service by not only studying Eastwood's individual films in sharp detail but also by providing a close and serious analysis of the cultural and historic times of the films."--Sam B. Girgus, author of Clint Eastwood's America

"By far the most comprehensive, sustained, and detailed discussion of the Dirty Harry phenomenon. A thorough and engaging account of how a fictitious renegade cop became an enduring icon of the angry conservative backlash that sought to halt 1960s liberalism in its tracks."--Nick Heffernan, author of Culture, Environment and Ecopolitics


Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry became the prototype for a new kind of movie cop--an antihero in pursuit of his own vision of justice. The Dirty Harry series helped cement Eastwood and his character, Harry Callahan, as central figures in 1970s and 1980s Hollywood cinema.


In Dirty Harry's America, Joe Street argues that the movies shed critical light on the culture and politics of the post-1960s era and locates San Francisco as the symbolic cultural battleground of the time. Across the entire series, conservative anger and moral outrage confront elitist liberalism and moral relativism. Paying particular attention to the films' representation of crime, family and community, sexuality, and race, Street maintains that through referencing real events and political struggles, the films themselves became active participants in the culture wars.
 
Unapologetic carrier of right and might, Harry Callahan becomes America's Ur-conservative: "unbending, moral, incorruptible, and most important, always right." Long after the series, Callahan's legacy remains strong in American political discourse, cinema, and pop culture, and he continues to shape Eastwood’s later political and cinematic career.

Joe Street is senior lecturer in American history at Northumbria University. He is the author of The Culture War in the Civil Rights Movement.
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Dirty Harry’s America has it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly....Could pave the way for historians to consider how culture, film, and politics are interwoven. -- H-Net

A scrupulously detailed study of the five Dirty Harry films. . . And their huge influence on other films, television shows, and literature. . . . Recommended. -- Choice

A comprehensive and thorough analysis of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry phenomenon in the backdrop of the growing tensions between 1960s elite liberalism, moral relativism and conservativism. -- Communication Booknotes Quarterly

Although the Dirty Harry films were released in the seventies and eighties, in the wake of the 2016 primary and general elections, a book like Dirty Harry’s America . . . seems as relevant as ever. -- Journal of American Culture

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