Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Great read about Hollywood and the war

I'm on the run, so can't blog at length today. I do suggest, though, this Michael Medved post about Hollywood's antipathy to American soldiers. UPDATE: I've got some time to blog now, so here are a few of my favorite paragraphs from Michael Medved's article (which is based on a speech he gave):

Three elements were always present in classic war movies—films like the John Wayne version of The Alamo, or The Longest Day, or A Bridge Too Far or Sergeant York. First, there was great affection for, and indeed glorification of, the American fighting man, who was portrayed as one of us—as representative of the best of what this country is. Second, there was obvious sympathy for the American cause. And third, the wars being dramatized were portrayed as meaning something. *** It is far more common in war films today, regardless of the war being depicted, for the three elements of the classic war film to be turned on their heads. American troops are more likely than not to be portrayed as sick, warped and demented—in any case, very different from normal Americans. Very often the audience is manipulated to root for the other side, whatever the other side happens to be. And whatever the war, we are left with the idea that it is meaningless. *** The problem with all of these Vietnam-based justifications for the modern war film is that they are built on falsehoods. For example, those who have thoroughly investigated the Vietnam War—including Guenter Lewy, who wrote a magisterial history of it—have concluded that Vietnam, far from having the highest incidence of war atrocities in American history, had some of the lowest. I would cite also the despicable, unforgivable treatment by Hollywood of the Vietnam veteran. *** I would submit to you that what has changed is neither the American military nor the ordinary American’s perception of the military. What has changed is Hollywood itself. During WWII, there was a spectacular war effort in Hollywood and a great enthusiasm among the Hollywood elite—even the biggest stars—for serving their country. Jimmy Stewart, the number-two rated male movie star at the time, enlisted in 1942, flew 51 bombing missions with the Army Air Corps and ended up a brigadier general. Henry Fonda rejected the proposal that he simply promote and sell war bonds, insisted on serving in combat and was wounded in the Pacific. And such behavior was considered normal. This was America, after all, and Hollywood was part of America. Bringing this forward into the late 1950s, one of the great events of my childhood—and you have no idea what a sensation it created—was when the number one pop star in America, a kid named Elvis Presley, cheerfully interrupted his multi-million dollar career to be drafted into the Army. *** Part of what changed—and it was a change that was already under way before Vietnam—was Hollywood’s transformation from a mass appeal industry to an elite institution. Many of the major stars today have an Ivy League background. And a large number of them are second or third generation stars—people who have been born into the movie business and have lived in it their whole lives. So the industry is no longer connected with the public in the way that it used to be. Certainly very few of Tinseltown’s luminaries have had any experience in, or contact with, the military. All of this is reflected in the new mission that Hollywood has adopted: not to entertain, but to challenge and discomfort the public. And of course it is not simply antipathy to the military that permeates Hollywood today. There is a broader anti-Americanism—an alienation from everything American—that runs very, very deep there. *** People like the gentleman I had on my radio show today love to say that “Violence never solved anything.” But what solved Hitler? Was it a team of social workers? Was it putting daisies into the gun barrels of Nazi Panzer divisions? Was it a commission that tried to understand what made Hitler so angry? No. What solved Hitler was violence. And what will solve the problem of Islamo-fascist terrorism, I’m sorry to say, is not understanding, negotiation, conferences, social workers, daisies, or anything other than the heroic violence of brave men and women with guns, fighting selflessly for their country—this greatest nation on God’s green earth.