Friday, February 24, 2006

Some of the best news I've heard lately...

A Washington Times article by Scott Galupo asks a question that I've asked myself many times over the past couple of years: where are the movies of heroism related to the War on Terror? This would be good news just because I'm glad someone besides myself is asking the question, but it also relates that Bruce Willis doesn't like the media treatment of the war and is in talks about a movie that will presumably have a more heroic storyline. I can't say I've followed Willis' career with much interest since the early Moonlighting, but I wish him well of this project.

The article does quote Craig Mazin giving a good reason why we haven't seen much in the way of Iraq or Afghanistan movies:

"Hollywood is reasonably cautious when it comes to depicting
any war in progress," Mr. Mazin says. "Doing a movie after a war's conclusion
means that you can frame a narrative safely within the confines of historical
fact and public perception."

I understand and accept this as one reason. There are at least two other good reasons, namely artists' understandable reluctance to compromise their artistic integrity with material that might, without care, stray toward mere propaganda, and (something I hadn't thought of) the military not making it easy for people who are interested in stories of heroism and/or information that might help them depict such stories on screen to find out what they need to know.

I think we all know the main reasons we haven't seen such movies, though. Fashionable lefty attitudes and pacifism (or at least the faux pacifism that condemns all wars that certain countries engage in.) Anti-military feelings. Anti-Americanism and general Western civilizational self-flagellation. And, I think, the attitude of some--too many--contemporary writers and other artists that they are above doing anything that is intended to inspire or comfort ordinary people.

I am not asking for out and out propaganda, especially not anything that demonizes our enemies as less than human. I just want to see some movies with heroes. I'd like one or two of them to be set in Iraq and some to be more general, terrorist-fighting movies. But they don't have to be. Just some movies that portray American military personnel (or soldiers from allied countries) behaving in an heroic way; it could take place in any conflict, even an entirely ficional one, and the characters don't all have to be heroes--just one hero per film with a few reasonably good people in the mix would be great. They don't all have to be--and shouldn't all be--about military people. Moreover they don't really have to be about Americans or anything closely related to contemporary conflicts; I would love to see some heroic, inspiring films set in our past--stories that all of the Anglosphere and Europe could warm to.

You can't tell me that people wouldn't want to see these movies. People have always wanted heroes in their stories; it was true of people sitting around campfires thousands of years ago and it is true of people now. It's why Hector going out to face Achilles still thrills us, why John Wayne movies still have a viewership, why any story with a mother sacrificing for her child or any news item with a man risking his own life to save a stranger touches us. It's why Maximilian Kolbe's story is more affecting than that of some saints--his last sacrifice made him a hero, as well as a saint. It's why the song wasn't called, "I'm Holding Out for an Anti-Hero".

You can't tell me that contemporary people will no longer accept stories with heroes who are in the military. One of the reasons Babylon 5 was so popular (just a decade ago) was that we got to see people being heroic--people, human and alien, making personal sacrifices for the greater good--and some of those people were military.

You can't tell me you can't make a good film that's also patriotic and inspiring. Laurence Olivier's Henry V could well be called propaganda, but it is still worth watching today. Heck, just reading Henry V makes me want to cry out, "God for Harry, England, and St. George!" and I'm not English.

You also can't tell me that it's impossible to make a good film about a war that's still going on. Mrs. Miniver puts the lie to that.

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