This is what happens when you live in a bubble, and use terms like “flyover country”.
So Dirty Harry, in the piece linked above, describes the stunning lack of financial success of nearly every Iraq-themed movie over the last couple of years, and the hilarious excuse-making from Hollywood and the media shills that cover for it.
Apparently the one possibility they did not stop to examine was that maybe people aren’t all that interested in paying perfectly good money to see movies that try to brainwash them into hating the military, and that celebrate defeatism, negativity, and nihilism.
Well, Dirty Harry knew, and I knew, and so did countless other potential movie-goers, who stayed away in droves.
And now, you might think, Hollywood knows too. Or they should. But they don’t, really, because they continue to wonder — or is pretend to wonder — just how they went so wrong financially.
For those who want evidence that Hollywood and the media just don’t “get” most of America, this is it. They made a whole bunch of pretty lousy movies that preach and hector people into hating some of the very best that America has to offer, and for some reason, people don’t go see the movies.
Consider some history. More and more lately, I’ve been watching movies on TCM. There are a lot of old war movies on TCM. Most of these old war movies were made in the post-WWII era, from 1942-1968 or so. And just about all of them celebrate heroism, and sacrifice, and duty, and honor. But they aren’t one-sided, and don’t ignore the fact that in war, sometimes, moral compromises are sometimes required. And even Americans can make mistakes.
And these movies are excellent, almost without exception. War movies can provide some of the most compelling settings, storylines, and characters of any type of movie genre: they are basically about life and death, and what could be more dramatic than that?
But what these movies do not do — and what differentiates them from today’s war movies — is wallow in guilt and shame over things that went wrong.
Think about what this says; the choice of material here is very revealing. They’ve had a wide array of stories to tell, including stories of heroism. But they picked a series of stories that emphasize negativity, guilt and shame.
This is not — cannot be — a coincidence.
The old movies, though, choose to celebrate the best examples of heroism, and sacrifice, and duty, and honor.
So let’s go way out on a limb and posit the following: that’s exactly why people like them.
Call me kooky, but people are more likely to want to see a movie that celebrates the things that make them feel good about themselves, and about their nation, and about their culture.
People don’t really want to go sit in a theatre to be told that their society is responsible for funding and training a military that goes around the world screwing everything up and butchering people. Especially since it isn’t true, and people know it.
You can’t just ignore all the stories of heroism and sacrifice, pick out a couple of ugly stories, make movies only about those, and then pretend that context is being preserved. Maybe they could have picked a story about one of the recent Congressional Medal of Honor winners. Or Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who wrote a book about being the only survivor of an intense firefight, as part of a five man unit surrounded by 80 or more Taliban on higher ground, and alive today only because Lt. Michael Murphy stood up to reveal his position in order to get reception on his radio to get help, knowing full well he would likely get killed doing it. Murphy was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
These are the kinds of stories that are worth telling, and that people want to see and hear, and that deserve the respect of being frozen in time on film. Most people probably never heard of any of these guys, because the media barely covers stories like this. Most people probably couldn’t name a single Congressional Medal of Honor winner from Operation Iraqi Freedom; back in WWII, this was most certainly not the case. Every American knew who the war heroes were, because the press told them about it, in detail, and with pride.
Today’s press is more interested in complaining about everything that isn’t perfect in war, especially if it can be used as a political cudgel to beat the current president about the head and shoulders.
And so somehow Hollywood, over the last couple of years, has unlearned every lesson that the film-making masters of the pre-1968 era had learned so well: they’ve managed to make a whole bunch of crappy, uninteresting, culturally degrading war movies. And in the process of examining the catastrophic failure of almost all of them, not one of these geniuses has thought about the contrast between the war movies of the post-WWII era and today? Nobody can be that clueless. Of course they have. So what this tells us is that Hollywood is actively engaged in political propaganda, even when it doesn’t make any money.
So now the mask comes off. Hollywood used to know how to make good war movies, but imagines itself smarter than all that now. Hollywood actively sought out this role, as moral arbiter of the United States. And I imagine, if they continue down this road, the studios and producers will use profits from popular movies like The Dark Knight to subsidize this ridiculous political posturing and pass it off as compelling entertainment. And critics and film festivals will continue to worship them for their POV, while audiences will continue to avoid them.
Kind of like what is happening in the newspaper industry today. How’s that working out for them?