Film & TV

CNN Fakes Movie History as Well as the News

CNN television news anchor Don Lemon poses in New York City, N.Y., May 15, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
New pop culture series slants toward fanboy populism.

As if CNN’s destruction of broadcast journalism wasn’t calamity enough, now the propaganda network is reshaping film culture. This weekend, CNN debuts a new, politicized six-part documentary series, The Movies, in its signature fashion of making everything prejudicial.

Before the rise of aggregating, mob-friendly, group-think websites, movie culture used to be esteemed for plurality; its history being the legacy of the great democratic audience informed by mainstream artists. Those were the terms that inspired the Charles Dickens-Matthew Brady-Bible-based pop narratives of D.W. Griffith which John Ford brought forth from Griffith into modern Americana and that Steven Spielberg borrowed from Ford and, for a time, charmed the world.

That’s only the American lineage, but CNN — via doc producers Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and HBO — compound the partiality by stealth, suggesting that movie history only means Hollywood (ignoring cross-cultural influence). The doc series highlights the same usual suspects repeatedly featured in American Film Institute TV specials and clueless Oscarcasts but with superfan celebrity interviews.

Strange how, in this period of extreme polarization, CNN pretends to “democratize” an industry that’s turned divisive. CNN’s daily habit — disguising opinion as journalism — has turned to promoting Hollywood mythology.

CNN’s odd chronology starts with the Eighties, the favorite era of Boomer nostalgia (when Reagan ruled, not as a conservative political idol, but as a figure of Vanity Fair power elite). The rest comes in haphazard sequence: “The Nineties,” “The 2000s to Today,” “The Seventies,” “The Sixties” and finally “The Golden Age” which only goes back to the 1930s, as if the magnificent silent era never happened.

Each episode highlights hits such as The Empire Strikes Back, E.T., The Breakfast Club, Jurassic Park, Pretty Woman, Titanic, Pulp Fiction, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Moulin Rouge, The Godfather, The Exorcist, Jaws, Star Wars, Three Days of a Condor, West Side Story, Bonnie & Clyde, King Kong, Casablanca, A Star is Born. Even if your personal favorites are among them, it is a moronic fanboy’s view of movie history.

But wait, it gets worse: CNN taints our movie memories through an ad campaign that features several of its opinion anchors reenacting movie moments: Don Lemon swaggering like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (why not Robin Williams in The Birdcage?), Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer prancing on a toy keyboard like Hanks and Robert Loggia in Big (although the stunt-double, trick-editing mostly recalls Cocoon). Anderson Cooper imitates The Blues Brothers (rather than All the President’s Men — an ego-check, I guess) and least offensive of all, John Berman posing as Everyman in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These spots, produced by Stun, the Los Angeles entertainment marketing agency and content studio, reveal that CNN-bots consider themselves to be iconic. (Remember the period when CNN anchors made cameo appearances as if to certify Hollywood’s commercial narratives? That’s when the corruption began.)

It’s blatantly a DNC strategy: fool people into thinking you’re big-hearted, open-minded, inclusive, and fun. CNN’s The Movies is not designed to celebrate films that established the art form with moral power — Intolerance to Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia to Nashville — but to win ratings through quasi-populism. Instead, the movies are used for distraction. It’s another way of constructing an ideological bubble. This doc series’ real point reiterates CNN’s political objective: to control the way people think and dictate their taste.

Armond White, a film critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

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