To what degree, Nichols asks, does ideology inform images in films, advertising, and other media? Does the cinema or any other sign system liberate or manipulate us? How can we as spectators know when the media are subtly perpetuating a specific set of values? To address these issues, the author draws from a variety of approaches—Marxism, psycholanalysis, communication theory, semiotics, structuralism, the psychology of perception. Working with two interrelated theories—ideology and image-systems, and ideology and principles of textual criticism—Nichols shows how and why we make emotional investments in sign sytsems with an ideological context.