Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hollywood and the war on terror

At the very beginning of this blog i noted that Hollywood was AWOL in the war on terror. This recent op-ed in the LA Times confirms that this is still true.

Is Hollywood too timid for the war on terror?

In the history of our time as told by the movies, the war on terror largely does not exist.

Which is passing strange, you know. Because the war on terror is the history of our time. The outcome of our battle against the demographic, political and military upsurge of a hateful theology and its oppressive political vision will determine the fate of freedom in this century
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Klavan is not afraid to point to political correctness as a culprit.

In all fairness, moviemakers have a legitimately baffling problem with the nature of the war itself. In order to honestly dramatize the simple truth about this existential struggle, you have to depict right-minded Americans — some of whom may be white and male and Christian — hunting down and killing dark-skinned villains of a false and wicked creed. That's what's happening, on a good day anyway, so that's what you'd have to show.

Moviemakers are reluctant to do that because, even though it's the truth, on screen it might appear bigoted and jingoistic. You can call that political correctness or multiculturalism gone mad — and sure, there's a lot of that going around. But despite what you might have heard, there are sensible, patriotic people in the movie business too. And even they, I suspect, falter before the prospect of presenting such a scenario
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That is a brave stand to take in the pages of Hollywood's home town paper. But i think it lets the studios off the hook.

For one thing, he could have expanded on the crasser motives of the "film community." He touches on it:

Television — more populist, hungrier for content and less dependent on foreign audiences — reflects this fact with shows such as "24" and "The Unit." But at the movies, all we're getting is home-front angst and the occasional "Syriana," in which "moderate" Islam is thwarted by evil American interests.
but then moves on to the tortured soul of the movie makers burdened by guilt over the American past. That sounds so much better than the lure of filthy lucre. Nevertheless, Hollywood is in America, but its eyes are fixed on the global box office.

"Offshoring the Audience"

The movie business is booming abroad precisely because Hollywood is making pictures for the world market —at the expense of customers in America, where, not surprisingly, business is tanking. It's that hoariest of economic clich├ęs, a zero-sum game.

[snip]

If France makes movies for the French, and America makes movies for the world, who's left to make movies for America
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While the WoT is essential to the American story, it does not resonate overseas. It would take a Mel Gibson-like monomaniac to make a movie to do it justice. The bean counters at the studios will get hung-up by its limited foreign box office potential.

It is fine to say that Hollywood is afraid of appearing bigoted toward brown-skinned Muslims. That rings true. But that delicate concern is part of a larger, moral conscience. Hollywood is unafraid to generalize and stereotype when it suits their purpose. The PC mentality works within a hierarchy as rigid as anything found in the old British Raj. There is a long list of those who must be treated sensitively. There is a much shorter list of those who can be stereotyped mercilessly and gratuitously:

Male evangelical minister? Perfect job for the character who is an oily hypocrite.

Muslim imam who sends young men out to die in a Holy War while living comfortably on the infidels's dole? Still waiting to see that in a movie or TV drama.

Want to tell a true story that has a big message? Hey, the murders of Matthew Shepherd or Teena Brandon tell us alot about the dark heart of America.

The story of Flight 93? That's only about courage and loss. There is no big message to be found in the history or identity of the hijackers. No Message. NONE. DON'T you dare try to find one. Well, maybe if you want to say something about the forced alienation of the poor immigrant in the racist West. That might be OK.

Have a twisted serial killer you want to explain? The possibilities are almost endless. You can have your basic Bible-thumping mother, your harsh football-coaching dad, the pediphile priest. Just make sure it is a Bible being thumped, never a Koran. The father has to look like Bear Bryant (can he be from Texas?) not Saddam Hussein. And those molestation flashbacks had better take place in a rectory, not a maddrassa.

Finally, i am troubled by Klavan's blithe dismissal of the problem.

It's a shame for so powerful an art form to become irrelevant because we can't find a way to dramatize the central event of our time. It's a shame that we live under the tireless protection of lawmen and warriors and don't pay tribute to them. And purely in artistic terms, it's a shame that so many great stories are just waiting to be told and we're not telling them.

But thanks, anyway, to the men and women of the FBI, for the seminar and, oh yeah, for trying to keep me alive and free. You truly have my gratitude. Just don't expect to see it at the movies
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Klavan is honest enough to admit that Hollywood has a problem, he doesn't think it is a big problem. I'm not so certain about that. I think that David Gelernter does the best job of explaining why:

What matters is our communal response to the crime. Evil is easy, good is hard, temptation is a given; therefore, a healthy society talks to itself

Such ritual denunciations strengthen our good inclinations and help us suppress our bad ones. We need to hear them, and hear good acts praised, too. We need to hear the crowd (hear ourselves) praising good and denouncing evil.

Goodness is unnatural, and we need to cheer one another on.


(From "Unresolved Evil", The Weekly Standard, 6 April 1998)

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