Hollywood is aghast at the success of “Act of Valor,” which came in first place over the weekend with $24.5 million. The reviews for the film have been uniformly terrible – and more than that, the reviews have either stated or implied that the film is propaganda. Try this critique on for size:
In case you missed it, they called the film “straight-up propaganda.” And that’s not uncommon. Dax Shepherd, star of “Parenthood” (NBC), wrote on Twitter, “Saw ‘Triumph of the Will’ tonight, oh wait, I mean ‘Act of Valor’ great action.” Barry Falls of NinerOnline suggested that the film was “nothing more than a propaganda piece instead of a realistic insight into SEALs’ lives.” Christian Toto has summed up the reviews here. And the general consensus from the left seems to be that this is “Battleship Potemkin” stuff.
Odd that this should be the left’s reaction – and typical, as Toto points out, since the Hollywood left despises openly positive portrayals of the military. But there’s something else at work here: Hollywood and the movie critics want to put the subtle word out that if you make a pro-military film, you will be slandered as a Nazi-esque propagandist.
This is how the Hollywood blacklist works. “Act of Valor” opened huge over the weekend, confounding all expectations – it’s already in the black. But will the directors, Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh, get the invites to the posh clubs? Will they get multi-movie deals from the studios? They didn’t require a huge budget to make a huge action flick, but will they be placed in rarefied Michael Bay territory?
Of course not. They will be blacklisted, the same way Mel Gibson was after “The Passion of the Christ,” but long before his insane drunken ranting. They will be characterized as extremists, as wackos interested only in recruiting new “killing machines.” Nobody calls the creators of “Green Zone” propagandists on behalf of the anti-Iraq War movement; but make a pro-military movie, and you are portrayed as a pariah.
Hollywood is a reputation industry. You get jobs based on your friends, on the public perception of your work … but most of all, based on your reputation in the industry. If you are labeled a shill for the military, your reputation is sullied. You’re not a “free thinker.” You’re a “propagandist” rather than an artist. You will be pigeonholed, cast out like a leper from the Rolodex.
There’s only one way to fight back: to create new studios, new methods of distribution. This is what truly frightens Hollywood: that they ignored “Act of Valor,” derided it, and finally decided it was Hitlerian. And the American people went anyway.
But one hit does not an infrastructure make. Hollywood still owns the infrastructure, still owns the relationship-machine that decides jobs and futures. We need to build our own machine. And the treatment of “Act of Valor” shows us why. Until we do, the blacklist – and the politics of personal destruction that surrounds anybody who doesn’t buy into the liberal Hollywood narrative – will continue unabated.