Paranoia, (Para)cinema, and the Right-Wing Mindset: Making Sense of My Son Hunter


  • Joel Frykholm Stockholm University



My Son Hunter, right-wing media, Breitbart, American politics on film, paracinema, post-truth, paranoid fiction, conspiracy theory films, melodrama, docudrama


This article aims to make sense of My Son Hunter (The Unreported Story Society and Breitbart News, 2022; dir. Robert Davi). The first part of the analysis discusses My Son Hunter as an example of right-wing counter-cinema that tries to simultaneously tap into the cultural prestige associated with feature filmmaking and provide niche audiences with “paracinematic” pleasures. The second part of the analysis explores cinematic form and filmmaking techniques in My Son Hunter, demonstrating how the movie extends a promise of “truth” via an affective bombardment that draws on melodrama and paranoid fiction as well as the flexible modes of docudramatic approximation. The overall effect is to make logic and argumentation superfluous, which is indicative of how the film can be regarded as both symptomatic and productive of a “post-truth” condition.

Author Biography

Joel Frykholm, Stockholm University

Joel Frykholm is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University. He is author of George Kleine and American Cinema (BFI, 2015) and co-editor (with Marina Dahlquist) of The Institutionalization of Educational Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2019). Current research interests include Swedish cinema history, Swedish contemporary film and television culture, and Swedish responses to the global impact of American popular culture from cinema’s silent era onward.


Amiri, Farnoush. “GOP Releases Testimony of Whistleblowers Claiming Interference in Hunter Biden’s Case.” AP News, 22 June 2023. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.

Anker, Elisabeth R. Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama of the Politics of Freedom. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

Arnold, Gordon B. Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.

Auerbach, Jonathan, and Russ Castronovo. “Introduction: Thirteen Propositions About Propaganda.” The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies, edited by Jonathan Auerbach and Russ Castronovo, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 1–16.

Beckman, Frida. The Paranoid Chronotope: Power, Truth, Identity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2022.

Boler, Megan, and Selena Nemorin. “Dissent, Truthiness, and Skepticism in the Global Media Landscape: Twenty-First Century Propaganda in Times of War.” The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies, edited by Jonathan Auerbach and Russ Castronovo, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 395–417.

Bramesco, Charles. “My Son Hunter: The Rightwing Hunter Biden Movie Is for Fringe Lunatics.” The Guardian, 6 Sept. 2022. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Breitbart, Andrew. Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011.

Breitbart, Andrew, and Mark C. Ebner. Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon—The Case Against Celebrity. New York: Wiley, 2004.

Bruzzi, Stella. Approximation: Documentary, History and Staging of Reality. Abingdon: Routledge, 2020.

---. New Documentary. 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2006.

Carney, Jordain. “The House GOP Is Starting Its Many Investigations this Week. Here’s What to Know.” Politico, 30 Jan. 2023. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

Chadwick, Andrew. The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power. 2nd ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Chilton, Louis. “Laurence Fox’s Embarrassing Hunter Biden Movie Is a Fate Worse Than ‘Cancellation.’” The Independent, 7 Sept. 2022. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

Clayton, Wickham. “The Big Short’s Incoherence, Documentary Aesthetics, and Use of Direct Address.” Journal of Popular Culture 55.5 (2022): 1037–61.

Committee on Oversight and Accountability. “Biden Family Investigation.” United States House of Representatives. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Courrielche, Patrick. “Conservatives’ Next Frontier.” The Daily Wire, 1 Nov. 2018. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Critchlow, Donald T. When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Critchlow, Donald T., and Emilie Raymond. Hollywood Politics: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Ekman, Mattias, and Andreas Widholm. “Media Criticism as a Propaganda Strategy in Political Communication.” Nordic Journal of Media Studies 5.1 (2023): 115–33.

Elsaesser, Thomas. “Propagating Modernity: German Documentaries from the 1930s: Information, Instruction, and Indoctrination.” The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies, edited by Jonathan Auerbach and Russ Castronovo, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 237–260.

Fairfax, Daniel. The Red Years of Cahiers du Cinéma (1968–1973). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021.

Farley, Robert. “GOP Misleading Claims in Biden Impeachment Investigation.”, 14 Dec. 2023. Accessed 30 Mar. 2024.

Fry, Naomi. “‘My Son Hunter’ Is Not the Hunter Biden Movie We Need, or the One We Deserve.” The New Yorker, 15 Sept. 2022. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

Grieveson, Lee. Cinema and the Wealth of Nations: Media, Capital, and the Liberal World System. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.

Hedman, Freja, et al. “News and Political Information Consumption in Sweden: Mapping the 2018 Swedish General Election on Twitter.” Data Memo 2018.3. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda, 2018. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Heft, Annett, et al. “Beyond Breitbart: Comparing Right‐Wing Digital News Infrastructures in Six Western Democracies.” Policy and Internet 12.1 (2020): 20–45.

Herkman, Juha, and Janne Matikainen. “Right-Wing Populism, Media and Political Scandal.” The Routledge Companion to Media and Scandal, edited by Howard Tumber and Silvio R. Waisbord, Abingdon: Routledge, 2019, 147–55.

Holt, Kristoffer. Right-Wing Alternative Media. Abingdon: Routledge, 2020.

Hoover Institution. “The Politics of Hollywood with Andrew Breitbart.” YouTube, “Uncommon Knowledge” web series, 28 May 2009. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, translated by Edmund Jephcott, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002, 94–136. Original German version published 1944.

“Hunter’s Laptop: The Movie.” The Gist: A Podcast with Mike Pesca from Peach Fish Productions, 30 Sept. 2022.

Jameson, Fredric. The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, and Joseph N. Cappella. Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

JFK. Directed by Oliver Stone, Warner Bros., 1991.

Kleinhans, Chuck. “Marxism and Film.” The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, edited by John Hill and Pamela Church-Gibson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, 106–13.

Kuypers, Jim A. Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Ladd, Jonathan M. Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Lauer, Claudia, et al. “Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal on Hold after Federal Judge Raises Concerns over the Terms of the Agreement.” AP News, 26 July 2023. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.

Lipkin, Steven N. Real Emotional Logic: Film and Television Docudrama as Persuasive Practice. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002.

Martin, Cristopher R. No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class. Ithaka: Cornell University Press, 2019.

Mascaro, Lisa. “Republicans Make Last-Ditch Request for Biden to Testify as Impeachment Inquiry Winds Down.” AP News, 21 Mar. 2024. Accessed 30 Mar. 2024.

Miller, Toby, et al. Global Hollywood 2. London: BFI, 2005.

My Son Hunter. Directed by Robert Davi, The Unreported Story Society and Breitbart News, 2022.

Parker, Ryan, and Aaron Crouch. “‘The Mandalorian’ Star Gina Carano Fired Amid Social Media Controversy.” The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Feb. 2021. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.

Pratt, Ray. Projecting Paranoia: Conspiratorial Visions in American Film. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

Ramirez, Nikki McCann. “25 Gut Reactions to ‘My Son Hunter,’ the Very MAGA—and Wildly Boring—Biden Family Biopic.” Rolling Stone, 7 Sept. 2022. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

Richer, Alanna Durkin, and Eric Tucker. “Jan. 6 Charges against Trump Would Add to His Mounting Legal Peril as He Campaigns for 2024.” AP News, 19 July 2023. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

“Righteous Indignation.” C-Span, Washington Journal, 6 May 2011. Accessed 23 Sept. 2023.

Rosen, Philip. “Screen and 1970s Film Theory.” Inventing Film Studies, edited by Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson, London: Duke University Press, 2008, 264–97.

Rosenwald, Brian. Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took over a Political Party that Took over the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2019.

Ross, Steven J. Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Schroeder, Ralph. “Digital Media and the Entrenchment of Right-Wing Populist Agendas.” Social Media + Society 5.4 (2019): 1–11.

Sconce, Jeffrey. “‘Trashing’ the Academy: Taste, Excess, and an Emerging Politics of Cinematic Style.” Screen 36.4 (1995): 371–93.

Shaviro, Steven. Post-Cinematic Affect. Ropley: Zero, 2010.

Stevens, Dana. “I Watched the Hunter Biden Movie So You Don’t Have To.” Slate, 9 Sept. 2022. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

The Big Short. Directed by Adam McKay, Paramount Pictures, 2015.

“Trump Indicted in Georgia Election Probe.” AP News, 15 Aug. 2023. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

Tucker, Eric, et al. “Trump Charged over Classified Documents in 1st Federal Indictment of an Ex-President.” AP News, 9 June 2023. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

“What We Know about Trump’s Jan. 6 Indictment.” AP News, 2 Aug. 2023. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.

York, Byron. “In Politics Fight, Breitbart Knew Culture Is Key.” Washington Examiner, 1 Mar. 2012. Accessed 23 Sept. 2023.




How to Cite

Frykholm, J. (2024). Paranoia, (Para)cinema, and the Right-Wing Mindset: Making Sense of My Son Hunter. American Studies in Scandinavia, 56(1).