A criticism often leveled at liberal democratic culture is its emphasis on the individual over community and private life over civic participation. However, liberal democratic culture has a more complicated relationship to notions of citizenship. As Michael Kaplan shows, citizenship comprises a major theme of popular entertainment, especially Hollywood film, and often takes the form of friendship narratives; and this is no accident. Examining the representations of citizenship-as-friendship in four Hollywood films (""The Big Chill"", ""Thelma & Louise"", ""Lost in Translation"", and ""Smoke""), Kaplan argues that critics have misunderstood some of liberal democracy's most significant features: its resilience, its capacity for self-revision, and the cultural resonance of its model of citizenship. For Kaplan, friendship - with its dynamic pacts, fluid alliances, and contingent communities - is one arena in which preconceptions about individual participation in civic life are contested and complicated. Friendship serves as a metaphor for citizenship and mirrors the individual's participation in civic life. ""Friendship Fictions"" unravels key implications of this metaphor and demonstrates how it can transform liberal culture into a more just and democratic way of life.
Michael A. Kaplan is Assistant Professor of Communications and Culture at Indiana University.