American Movies That Hate America
Any artistic medium—poetry, film, music, etc.—derives its meaning from the subjective experiences of its audience. There is no static, fixed meaning when it comes to interpreting artistic expression.
Film is a very interesting medium. In its crudest, commodified form, Hollywood produces entertainment known as movies to make as much money as possible. People don’t spend their hard-earned money to be lectured about the ills of US imperialism, for example (well, some do). They want to see good guys whoop bad guys. It’s a pretty simple formula.
Who the bad guys are, though, can be a touchy issue. I haven’t seen Iron Man 3, but after reading this post by conservative blogger Douglas Ernst, it’s clearly a movie I should see:
The good news about Iron Man 3 is that it’s a sharply written, well-directed movie. The bad news is that while some of the messages it conveys to the audience hold incredible truth (e.g., “we create our own demons”), it might just be the conspiracy-theorist must-see blockbuster of the summer.
Do you have any friends who think 9/11 was “an inside job”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. (You might want to consider getting new friends if that’s the case, but in the mean time you could still enjoy a solid movie.) Do you have any friends who refer to the “military industrial complex” at parties so they sound smarter than they really are? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Do you have friends who hate “Big Oil” and “fat cats”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Director Shane Black ingeniously — or perhaps devilishly? — devised a film that is drenched in anti-Americanism in a way that will leave many Americans exiting the theater not even knowing they’re all wet. At the showing I went to in Tyson’s Corner, Va., many people even burst out clapping twice during the film. On many levels, Mr. Black deserves kudos. That’s not easy to do.
Hollywood is one of Ernst’s favorite targets, because in Hollywood, America-hating liberals enrich themselves with their unfair depictions of the consequences of misusing American power, and people love the products they produce.
Last night I watched a “buddy cop” movie starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Lethal Weapon came out in 1987, and was number 1 at the box office for 3 weeks, ensuring several sequels.
I didn’t see the movie when it first came out, because I was only 9, but I did eventually see it. What surprised me when I saw it for the first time in well over a decade was Gibson’s character, Riggs, telling his buddy partner (played by Glover) how he was a part of Air America and the Phoenix Program, actual CIA projects operating in Vietnam.
Filtering this stuff through film is brilliant. It gets it out there in a form that can be totally controlled and—because it’s just a movie—delegitimized. Instead of grappling with the realities of what this country did in Southeast Asia, we can be entertained by a 90 minute cinematic depiction that propels a fictionalized character into the vengeful role of lethal good guy righteously killing the bad guys.
I wonder if blogging was around in 1987, if comments like this would be aimed at Lethal Weapon:
The liberals got a hold of this movie! Wouldn’t you know the true bad guy was an American and American military soldiers while the poor Muslims were innocent and we are the bad people. Plus, the symbolism of him blowing up his suits and his girlfriend not wanting to help out the military was all anti-military, anti-guns, anti-Americans. I just felt like Obama was the director of this movie and im very disappointed. At the end what is he trying to say that iron man is done he’s now some great liberal who doesn’t need a suit? JUST HORRIBLE!
Many Americans desperately need their culture to maintain the evil of the other and the noble righteousness of America. When that doesn’t happen, they get upset.
My advice to the commenter above is to watch Zero Dark Thirty to alleviate the trauma experienced by watching Iron Man 3.
My advice to everyone else: they aren’t “just movies” so pay attention to what the wizards in Hollywood are conjuring.