Leave it to America’s greatest novelist, Rick “Ice Storm” Moody, to bravely speak truth to power about the neo-crypto-fascist hostile Hollywood workplace in which we long-suffering scribes must toil in order to keep up the payments on our palatial pads in Echo Park. Hold on to your hat, because here’s his thesis, occasioned by watching that immortal 1992 Steven Seagal vehicle, Under Siege: “popular entertainment from Hollywood is — to a greater or lesser extent — propaganda.” Can you believe it? But wait — there’s more!
The moment of revelation could have come at any time. It could have come earlier, and it did among my more astute friends. Had I watched any of the later Rocky pictures, for example, or had I watched Rambo, I might have registered that there was little depicted in these frames but feel-good, reactionary message-deployment. But there were, apparently, films too embarrassing for me to see, Rocky IV and Rambo among them. I remember thinking True Lies, the abominable 1994 James Cameron film (featuring Republican governor-to-be Arnold Schwarzenegger), with its big, concluding nuclear blast – the nuclear blast we were meant to want to see – was, well, more than suspect. (I could never again watch a Cameron film without disgust. And that includes the racist, New Age blather of Avatar.) Or what about the expensive and aesthetically pretentious Gladiator (2000), which I still contend is an allegory about George W Bush’s candidacy for president, despite the fact that director and principal actor were not US citizens. Is it possible to think of a film such as Gladiator outside of its political subtext? Are Ridley Scott’s falling petals, which he seems to like so much that he puts them in his films over and over again, anything more than a way to gussy up the triumph of oligarchy, corporate capital and globalisation..?
. . . the message is there. Might is right, the global economy will be restored, America is exceptional, homely people deserve political disenfranchisement, and so on.
Yes, it’s all George W. Bush’s fault — and after all that campaign cash we coughed up for him, too. But Moody reserves his really righteous wrath for that wingnut, Frank Miller, and his execrable “defense of western civilization” cartoon, 300:
. . . is just what you would expect from the heavily freighted right-wing filmic propaganda of the post-9/11 period: the Greeks, from which our own putative democracies are descended, must fight to the death against a vast but incompetent army of Persians (those hordes of the Middle East), who are considered here unworthy of characterisation – in fact, every character in the film is unworthy of characterisation – and the noble Spartans (the Greeks in question) achieve heroism despite their glorious deaths on the field at Thermopylae, by virtue of the moral superiority of their belief system and their unmatched courage. Ruthless enemy! From the Middle East! Heroic, rugged individualists! A big, sentimental score! Lots and lots of blue-screen! Endless amounts of body parts spewing theatrical blood!
The really insidious thing about Moody’s thesis is that — somehow, probably through Christianist mind control — this KKK-inspired jingoism has even infected left-wing writers and directors! Yes! Andy Davis, helmer of Under Siege! Jim Cameron, arbiter of Avatar! What’s next? Right-wing tropes in Carl Foreman’s High Noon?
The mind boggles.