A Tale of Two Versions

‘I Am Legend’ (2007) and the Political Economy of Cultural Production





I Am Legend (2007), propaganda model, Hollywood, cultural production, othering, test-screenings, liminal space


Based on a comparative reading of the officially released version and the director’s cut of Francis Lawrence’s movie I Am Legend (2007a; 2007b), the present contribution interrogates possible connections between the political economy of film production and aesthetic form. Drawing upon theoretical frameworks such as Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model and Artz’ critical study of global entertainment industries, and combining these with an analysis of Lawrence’s two versions, I argue that profit-oriented adaptations to implied market pressures are not neutral endeavours, but inherently political acts that shape aesthetic form to, often-tacitly, reiterate a received hegemonic status quo.

Author Biography

Holger Pötzsch, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

is Associate Professor of Media and Documentation Studies at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. His main research interest is the intersection between media and conflict. He has published on war films, war games, memory and conflict, the politics and economy of digital networks, and border culture and technology. He currently coordinates the research networks ‘Manufacturing Monsters’ and WAR/GAME.


Alford, Matthew. 2011. “Why Not a Propaganda Model for Hollywood?”, in Screens of Terror: Representations of War and Terrorism in Film and Television Since 9/11, edited by Philip Hammond. Bury St. Edmunds: Arima Publishing, 71–88.

Alford, Matthew. 2015. “How Useful Is a Propaganda Model for Screen Entertainment?”, in Noam Chomsky, edited by Alison Edgley. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 141–164. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-32021-6_8.

Artz, Lee. 2015. Global Entertainment Media: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Bordwell, David. 2006. The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bowring, Nicola. 2015. “Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend: Colonization and Adaptation”, Adaptation 8:1, 130–144. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1093/adaptation/apv001.

Boyle, Kirk. 2009. “Children of Men and I Am Legend: The Disaster-Capitalism Complex Hits Hollywood”, Jump Cut—A Review of Contemporary Media 51, 1–26. Digital object identifier not available: https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc51.2009/ChildrenMenLegend/index.html [October 31, 2019].

Brahm, Gabriel N. 2006. “Understanding Noam Chomsky: A Reconsideration”, Critical Studies in Media Communication 23:5, 453–461. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1080/07393180601046279.

Brayton, Sean. 2011. “The Racial Politics of Disaster and Dystopia in I Am Legend”, The Velvet Light Trap 67:1, 66–76. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1353/vlt.2011.0005.

Butler, Judith. 2009. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso.

Cotter, Padraig. 2018. “I Am Legend Director Reveals the Movie He Wishes He’d Made”, Screen Rant—Movie News, January 22. Available online: https://screenrant.com/i-am-legend-ending-approach/ [link defunct as of December 22, 2018].

Degouveia, Tony. 2017. “I Am Omega Man: Religious Repositioning of the Secular Apocalypse Film in I Am Legend”, in Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition, edited by Christian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen, and Christine Cornea. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 137–154. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56577-4_9.

Der Derian, James. 2002. “In Terrorem: Before and After 9/11”, in Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order, edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 101–117.

Faizi, Hamed. 2015. “Distorted Dialogue in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend: A Bakhtinian Perspective”, Advances in Language and Literary Studies 6:4, 36–40. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.6n.4p.36.

Hall, Stuart. 1977. “Encoding/Decoding”, in The Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Simon During. London: Routledge, 91–103.

Hantke, Steffen. 2011. “Historicizing the Bush Years: Politics, Horror Film, and Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend”, in Horror After 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror, edited by Aviva Briefel and Sam J. Miller. Austin: University of Texas Press, 165–185.

Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. 2002 [1988]. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Reprint edition with a new introduction. New York: Pantheon Books.

Heyes, Michael E. 2017. “Fixing Ground Zero: Race and Religion in Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend”, Journal of Religion & Film 21:2, 1–27. Digital object identifier not available: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol21/iss2/13 [October 31, 2019].

Hwang, Eunju. 2015. “Stateless Within the States: American Homeland Security After 9/11 and Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend”, European Journal of American Studies 10:2, 1–29. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.4000/ejas.11117.

Kellner, Douglas, and Michael Ryan. 1990. Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Krüger, Uwe. 2013. Meinungsmacht—Der Einfluss von Eliten auf Leitmedien und Alpha-Journalisten: Eine kritische Netzwerkanalyse. Köln: Herbert-von-Halem-Verlag.

Lambie, Ryan. 2011. “Exclusive: Director Francis Lawrence on What Went Wrong with I Am Legend”, denofgeek.com, May 4. Available online: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/17405/exclusive-director-francis-lawrence-on-what-went-wrong-with-i-am-legend [March 15, 2018].

Lawrence, Francis (dir.). 2007a. I Am Legend. Feature film. DVD. Burbank: Warner Home Video.

Lawrence, Francis (dir.). 2007b. I Am Legend. Director’s Cut. Feature film. DVD. Burbank: Warner Home Video.

Lunte, Kathryn. 2015. “Screening Success: Marketing Research for Movies”, Film and Digital Media—A Multi-Authored Discussion of the Creative Industries in the Digital Age, February 28. Available online: https://filmanddigitalmedia.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/assessing-the-marketplace-research-in-film/ [February 12, 2018].

Marich, Robert. 2013 [2005]. Marketing to Moviegoers: A Handbook of Strategies and Tactics. Third edition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Matheson, Richard. 1954. I Am Legend. New York: Fawcett Publications.

Misek, Richard. 2008. “Exploding Binaries: Point-of-View and Combat in The Thin Red Line”, Quarterly Review of Film & Video 25:2, 116–123. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1080/10509200601074710.

Moreman, Christopher M. 2012. “Let this Hell Be Our Heaven: Richard Matheson’s Spirituality and Its Hollywood Distortions”, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 24:1, 130–147. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1353/rpc.2012.0004.

Mosco, Vincent. 2009 [1996]. The Political Economy of Communication. Second edition. London: Sage. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446279946.

Moya, Ana, and Gemma López. 2017. “Looking Back: Versions of the Post-Apocalypse in Contemporary North-American Cinema”, Film Criticism 41:1, 1–17. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.3998/fc.13761232.0041.102.

Niles, Steve, and Elman Brown. 2007 [1991]. I Am Legend. San Diego: IDW Publishing.

Pötzsch, Holger. 2010. “Challenging the Border as Barrier: Liminality in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line”, Journal of Borderlands Studies 25:1, 67–80. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1080/08865655.2010.9695752.

Pötzsch, Holger. 2013. “Ubiquitous Absence: Character Engagement in the Contemporary War Film”, Nordicom Review 34:1, 125–144. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.2478/nor-2013-0047.

Roberts, Justin J. 2016. “Transforming the Hero of I Am Legend”, Journal of Popular Film & Television 44:1, 42–50. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1080/01956051.2015.1074155.

Robinson, Piers. 2015. “The Propaganda Model: Still Relevant Today?”, in Noam Chomsky, edited by Alison Edgley. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 77–96. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-32021-6_5.

Rosello, Mireille. 2005. France and the Maghreb: Performative Encounters. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Sagal, Boris (dir.). 2003 [1971]. The Omega Man. Feature film. DVD. Burbank: Warner Home Video.

Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. London: Routledge.

Shklovsky, Viktor. 1965 [1919]. “Art as Technique”, in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, edited by Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 3–24.

Smith, Murray. 1995. Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, Kristin. 1988. Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ubaldo, Ragona (dir.). 2008 [1964]. The Last Man on Earth. Feature film. DVD. Healdsburg: Cornerstone Media.

Walliss, John, and James Aston. 2011. “Doomsday America: The Pessimistic Turn of Post 9/11 Apocalyptic Cinema”, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 23:1, 53–64. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.3138/jrpc.23.1.53.

Žižek, Slavoj. 2010. Living in the End Times. London: Verso.

Zollmann, Florian. 2018. “Corporate-Market Power and Ideological Domination: The Propaganda Model after 30 Years—Relevance and Further Application”, in The Propaganda Model Today: Filtering Perception and Awareness, edited by Joan Pedro-Carañana, Daniel Broudy, and Jeffery Klaehn. London: University of Westminster Press, 223–236. Digital object identifier: https://doi.org/10.16997/book27.n.




How to Cite

Pötzsch, Holger. 2019. “A Tale of Two Versions: ‘I Am Legend’ (2007) and the Political Economy of Cultural Production”. Nordlit, no. 42 (November):171–190. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.5011.

Most read articles by the same author(s)