In Capra's Prelude to War, who is John Q. Public?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Q. Public is the name given to the "ordinary citizen."  In order to bring out their commonness, the term "John Q. Public" is employed.  In Capra's work, John Q. Public is the reason why America must fight.  In many respects, John Q. Public is both the target audience and the star of the film.  Capra's work is dedicated to the idea that American intervention against the Axis Powers is needed in order to thwart the alliance's desire for world domination.  The only way this is possible is by presenting this conflict to John Q. Public.  As an audience member, the ordinary citizen, it was believed, has to fully understand the rationale for fighting and what is gained from it.  More importantly, the film attempts to articulate a world where the average citizen does not fight and what will result from such isolationism.  John Q. Public is also the star of the film.  The ending of the film depicts a vision where American values triumph due to the passion and intensity of American action, which is only possible through the enlistment of ordinary citizens.  In a time period of political supermen, who were driven by their own charisma, the film depicts John Q. Public as the "ordinary guy" who is capable of extraordinary endeavors.

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