A MAD, MAD, World


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The world lived under the shadow of the acronym MAD for forty years. Mutually Assured Destruction was no laughing matter, but Stanley Kubrick thought dark comedy was the only way to approach a topic as ridiculous as MAD. In this episode we compare and contrast Dr. Strangelove (1964) with Failsafe, a serious film about the same subject that came out the same year. We reveal just how spot on Dr. Strangelove was about MAD versus Failsafe’s unwarranted optimism that limited nuclear war was possible. An army of political scientists and bureaucrats game theoried fighting and winning a nuclear war like it was just another social science problem. Civilians are the warmongers in our MAD films. Dr. Strangelove may be a deranged Nazi freak, but everything he said was seriously considered by real life MAD Men.

Lia Paradis is a professor of history at Slippery Rock University. Brian Crim is a professor of history at the University of Lynchburg. For more on Lies Agreed Upon, go here.

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