[Originally published July 9th, 2007]
In 1942, Hollywood went to war. It began pumping out countless movies designed to be both entertaining and instructive as to the nature of our enemies. A lot of them were done on the cheap and others were pretty hokey, but they kept drilling home the message that we must persevere no matter the costs or how long it would take. Fast forward that reel to the post-9/11 era. Just how many movies can you count in which Islamist terrorists are the bad guys and that do not specifically concern the Sept. 11 attacks?In the Second World War, America was united in the belief that we faced an existential threat, and this unanimity was largely due to a motion picture industry that was unafraid to put this powerful medium to use supporting the internment of citizens who were suspected of unAmerican sympathies or epicanthic folds. If I may quote from the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial, The Batman:
“This was part of a foreign land, transplanted bodily to America and known as Little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street, where only one business survives.”
The business in question being the “Japanese Cave of Horror”, a carnival-like Tunnel of Love, except that it’s full of mannequins dressed as Imperial Japanese soldiers who are threatening Margaret Dumont with a bayonet. The 12-episode serial went out of its way to highlight that America was under siege by an alien race, sprinkling the dialogue with references to “squint-eyes” and noting that one character’s craven actions made him as yellow “as the color of [his] skin.”
Most important of all is that this chapterplay was intended mostly for children, thus providing the kind of moral fiber in their formative years that these kids would later need to kill Asians in Korea and Vietnam.
Meanwhile – and this may be considered a spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie look out – the just-released fourth installment of the Die Hard series, Live Free or Die Hard, teaches us that just because there are some bad guys out to destroy America doesn’t mean they have to be bin Laden’s buddies.
In fact, it was the Department of Homeland Security that turns out to have been more or less responsible for the attack in the first place. Meanwhile one of the few good guys in the movie, the head of the FBI team that aids our hero John McCain[sic], looks decidedly Arabic.This non-traditional casting fad is ruining the delicate suspension of disbelief so necessary to enjoying a summer action movie. And the sad thing is, there was a time when Hollywood was scrupulous about depicting America’s racial minorities as certain easily-offended regions of the country perceived them to be, without distorting it through some colorblind lens. Why, just imagine Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves if they’d succumbed to PC pressure and drawn the characters as white! It wouldn’t have made any sense at all!
I’m glad there are still a few brave souls who will hold Hollywood to account for implying that an FBI agent is Arabic by casting a New Zealander named Cliff Curtis and calling the character “Bowman.”
One of last year’s most critically-acclaimed films was the severely disjointed Babel in which what is treated as a terrorist shooting of an American woman in Morocco turns out to have been an accident. Heck, it wasn’t even an AK-47 involved but rather a Japanese hunter’s rifle.While Fumento was clearly let down by the lack of a Kalashnikov-wielding terrorist in an esoteric art film, he should take heart from the fact that Hollywood is still warning Americans (or at least, American tourists in Morocco) about the insidious Japanese. I mean, it’s been 67 years; that’s some serious drilling home.
Anyway, the writer and director of Babel were both Spanish, which figures, 'cause you know how those Iberian nancyboys rolled bum-up for the Moors.
If I’m mistaken and there have been movies in which Islamists where the bad guys, please let me know.Because boners don’t just happen. A fella needs a little help.
In any event, where once Hollywood shored up a resolute but war-weary public (Everyone knew somebody who had been killed or maimed and they thought the war would last well into 1946 or beyond), Hollywood now feels its job is to assure us that with terrorism we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Even while traveling in countries with strong Islamist movements. Never mind that the week the new Die Hard came out there were two aborted terrorist attacks in Great Britain perpetrated by middle class Islamist physicians living as normal Britons – a truly scary scenario that’s right out of a movie like The Manchurian Candidate.Which prompted these remarks from commenter Marlowe over at Matt Yglesias’ place:
The utter fatuous cluelesness of Fumento and his ilk is amusingly illustrated by his comment that the doctors suspected in the recent British terrorist plot was “a truly scary scenario that’s right out of a movie like The Manchurian Candidate.” As anyone with a functioning brain that has seen that classic film knows, the ultimate goal of the Chinese plot was to install James Gregory (playing a barely disguised version of Joe McCarthy controlled by his wife–Angela Lansbury as an icy Chicom mole) in the White House. In other words, the plotters were (correctly) aware that the best way to destroy the US was make sure it was led by a fear mongering arch-conservative. Of course, such people are incapable of detecting irony.However, unaware that the batteries are dead in his irony detector, Fumento continues to wander over the beach, resolutely sweeping it back and forth:
One of the ironies is that you don’t even need to create fictitious Islamist villains; the real ones are so classically evil.So classicially evil…so…so deliciously eeeevil! (I’ve discovered that this column goes down a lot easier if you imagine it being read aloud by the Joker. The Cesar Romero version.)
Look, you can’t live on the edge of your seat all the time in a war that could last a generation or far longer.The Carthaginians tried it during the Second Punic War, and their legs eventually went to sleep.
If we think we see a bomb in every backpack, the terrorists are winning.Or at least the Bush Administration is.
But there’s got to be a happy medium. Hollywood doesn’t see it that way. A lot of people have suggested that, pathetically, it’s going to take another terrorist attack to wake us from our slumber.Oh come on, nobody would be heartless, cynical, or just plain stupid enough to make a statement like that.
In his first interview as the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Dennis Milligan told a reporter that America needs to be attacked by terrorists so that people will appreciate the work that President Bush has done to protect the country.
“At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001],” Milligan said to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”Okay, my bad. Hey, if any of you terrorists are currently working on Chairman Milligan’s Anti-Naysayer Plot, Fumento has a bit of operational advice:
Wouldn’t it be fitting if [the terrorist attack] were in a movie theater?Ah, it looks like Michael finally replaced the batteries and found some irony over by the frozen banana stand. Sure, it’s got a little gum and sand stuck to it, but I'm sure Alanis Morissette will still give him a good price for it.
Posted by scott on Monday, July 9th, 2007 at 4:11 pm.
Original comments -- including Special Guest Villain Michael Fumento -- below: