After nearly a decade of treating the War on Terror as an act of hubris and greed perpetrated by the proxies of multi-billion-dollar corporations, Hollywood has found a new storyline. But in his August 26 piece for the Wall Street Journal, “Hollywood Tries a New Battle Plan,” John Jurgensen incorrectly identifies the source of the change.
It was not the public’s ambivalence to the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq that caused director Nick Broomfield to portray our soldiers as adrenalized murderers in “Battle for Haditha” or cinema legend Brian De Palma to do the same in “Redacted.” Nor is it a sudden focus on capitalism, as filmmaker Peter Berg suggests in the article, that is motivating Universal Studios suddenly to produce “Lone Survivor” four years after its publication. It is politics.
Numerous books have analyzed politics in Hollywood, including Ben Shapiro’s recent Primetime Propaganda: The True Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. So, the fact that Hollywood is an unabashedly liberal community is no revelation. But filmmakers’ covert attempts to shift public opinion to the left needs to be understood better.
Berg explains that Hollywood now “supports these men” but fails to disclose that this is because our troops have a new boss. The equation is simple: When the commander-in-chief is a Republican, Hollywood sees him as a corporate stooge and jingoistic warmonger. But when he is a Democrat, he is a visionary and a reluctant hero.
Hollywood does not make films that celebrate American values and our men and women in uniform during GOP administrations. Those films could send the wrong message and stir public sentiment in favor of a disliked president. But trade in a Right-wing saber rattler for some hope and change, and suddenly a powerful propaganda machine positively portrays the country that today’s president leads. The new message: Feel good, America. We are noble, just like our cosmopolitan president. Let’s give him four more years and keep feeling great about ourselves.
Fast forward to the upcoming film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which is slated for release in October 2012, just before the election. Some conservatives worry that the filmmakers — Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal — will spend more time praising President Obama for his “gutsy call” than they will on the heroes who tracked, found, and killed the late al-Qaeda chief. But those fears are unfounded.
Bigelow and Boal understand the firestorm that they would unleash. Instead, they are likely to create a genuinely great movie that makes our intelligence agencies and special forces look like gods among men. They may even throw George W. Bush a bone, which will make them look magnanimous and their critics seem small. It will be enough that the film will make people feel warm about the country and its leadership a few weeks before the election they vote. That’s their goal, and that’s the power that Hollywood has to influence our culture.
The real question isn’t: “Can Hollywood make a film that presents American values in a good light?” That’s not a problem. The question should be: “Would Hollywood produce it if their man wasn’t in the Oval Office?”
To answer that, just look at Boal’s own work. Far from celebrating the bravery of American soldiers, his 2007 screenplay for Paul Haggis’s “In the Valley of Elah,” portrayed American soldiers as murderous psychopaths who dismember one of their own. Back then, the cowboy from Texas was president.
As for Boal’s last collaboration with Bigelow, while “Hurt Locker” was released under Obama in June 2009 and widely applauded for portraying US GIs in an heroic light, the film was written and shot under Bush. As such it reflects — albeit subtly — Hollywood’s skepticism about Americans in uniform.
The film opens with the sentence “WAR IS A DRUG” and proceeds to show how the war in Iraq takes a toll on the main character, depriving him of love for his child, and creating in him a reckless junkie who puts his men in danger for his own sport. George Bush’s war does that to a man.
There was also the commanding officer who ordered his men to leave an Iraqi to die, and the few political statements were all decidedly in the liberal, “we make them terrorists” vein.
For those of us who love America, as well as the men and women who protect her, Hollywood’s new attitude will be refreshing, even if it is tainted by the certainty that one election can change everything for the worse.
For a more consistent way to see pro-American films made – one that is not dependent on who occupies the White House — more conservatives working need to work in the entertainment industry. We need more conservatives to learn the craft, create films, produce television, and sway the culture. For too long, conservatives have been only reactionary toward what Hollywood produces. We cannot leave America’s most powerful pulpit in the hands of the left.