GOLDEN AGE HEROES: THE AMERICAN MYTH OF WOODWARD AND BERNSTEIN
The Watergate scandal of the 1970s is one of the greatest presidential scandals in American history. In an elaborate scheme in quest for more power, President Richard Nixon and his administration performed unconstitutional acts of corruption while in the White House. These acts were brought to the public by the media and the investigative reporting done on the scandal. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are two of the most famous investigative journalists in American history due to their work on the scandal at The Washington Post. After the scandal had passed and Richard Nixon resigned from his presidency, Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book in 1974 telling of their experience reporting on Watergate titled All the President’s Men. This book was then made into an iconic film in 1976. The release of the book and film created a narrative of the two reporters as heroic journalists and propelled them into the public eye and popular culture. Woodward and Bernstein became poster children of investigative journalism, and my research aims to highlight the portrayal of the David and Goliath archetype applied to the journalists reporting the wrongdoings of the Nixon administration. In this thesis, I look at the relationship between the book, film, reactions from popular culture and the preservation of the heroic identity. I argue that that the book and film versions of All the President’s Men perpetuated the myth of Woodward and Bernstein as hero-journalists who single-handedly cracked the Watergate case, glazing over the factual history of the event and setting a precedent for how investigative journalism was perceived by the public, allotting a place for them in American popular culture years later.
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