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Cabaret: A Study of Fascism, Sexuality, and Politics

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Abstract

Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972) functions as a prism through which to look at issues of sexuality, dictatorship, war, and ethnic prejudices in 1970’s America. Set in 1930’s Berlin at the time of the rise of in Nazism, Fosse was able to comment on racial and sexual politics, and the rise of authoritarianism in America with aestheticized politics of fascism. Combining effervescent music and dance numbers with grotesque content including violence, brutality, and impeding war, Fosse creates subversive commentary on authoritarian politics. The emphasis on aggression and violence of the totalitarian regime drives the spectacle of the film along with the hyperbolic performances. The contradictory aesthetics of Nazism, such as decadence, grandiosity, austerity, danger, theatricality, euphoria, indulgence, and extreme control serve as manifestations of spectacle that fuel the musical genre of Cabaret in an unlikely manner as a fascinating macabre subject matter. The inclusion of the grotesque and carnivalesque questions the totalitarian regime throughout the movie, which not only brings the well-known disturbing aspects of fascist Germany in the first part of the twentieth century but also as a critique of the 1970s America, which was involved in Vietnam War. The film presents a stylized historical account of war, seeds of genocide, and authoritarian politics that reflected the 1970s America and queers dominant ideologies with grotesque realism and non-heteronormative performances of gender. Cabaret, as a politicized film, critiques growing repressive conservative powers in America by depicting the perversions of Nazi tyranny that seem pertinent to the current political climate.

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