It’s been a year since George W. Bush left office. Do you miss him yet?
For all his foibles – utter inability to explain his policies to the American public, bending over backwards for bipartisanship with Democrats, foolish bailouts – Bush was a president who understood the battle between good and evil in our current war on Islamofascism, even if he wouldn’t call the war by its proper name.
And Bush’s clarity had a measurable impact on our film culture. Leaving aside the obvious mirror images (the success of 24
, e.g.), the Bush Administration saw a rash of huge blockbusters dealing with the dichotomy between good and evil, and the necessity of fighting evil with every resource at our disposal.
The single top earner of the Bush Administration was The Dark Knight
, a very thinly veiled defense of Bush tactics in the war on terror. No better speech on the motivation for terror can be found in movies than Michael Caine’s assertion as Alfred that “some people just want to watch the world burn.”
Leaving aside sequels (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
and Shrek 2
), the next biggest earner was Spider-Man
, which saw our hero being told that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Then there were the Lord of the Rings
films, which clearly dealt with the conflict between good and evil. Bush could have spoken Aragorn’s line in his climactic battle speech at the end of Return of the King
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
And I haven’t even mentioned The Passion of the Christ
Think that Bush had no impact on the box office? For contrast, let’s take a look at the biggest films of the Clinton years.
The top earner, of course, was the childish Titanic
, which was as feeble-minded and beautiful a spectacle as has ever been depicted on screen. The Clinton years were a soft time of large illusions – and no film better depicted those illusions of grandeur than Titanic
. Puerile romance topped by delusions of depth. Sums up Clinton pretty well. It’s no wonder that as Clinton left office, the country hit an iceberg brought on by years of bad steering.
Next, after skipping Star Wars Episode I
(it’s tough to argue that it wouldn’t have been a hit in any era with that build-up), we get to Jurassic Park
. In that film, perverted nature is the enemy. It’s as though you can feel the confusion of the American public in the aftermath of the Cold War – who do we fight now?
What can we expect from Obama? Bloated monstrosities (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
) and liberal claptrap (Avatar
Do I miss Bush? Absolutely. Do I miss the movies of the Bush era? You bet.