Thursday, July 14, 2005

Defending Hollywood?


Once again, I find myself in that bizarre parallel universe, where I find myself sympathetic to the plight of people who ordinarily should deserve naught but my contempt. Even so, here I go…

One thing which I have seen in many a column and blog, is harsh rebuke for Hollywood for not depicting Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. After all, they say, we all know very well that 99.999999999999% of all the evil done in the world today, is either done by Muslim fanatics, or on the influence and instructions from Karl Rove, depending on your source. Corporate villains and neo-Nazis are just ridiculous caricatures, and it’s well past time to get villains who match the real perpetrators.

Well folks, I have to say I don’t like movies and shows where they try to slam businessmen or the Intelligence community, just because they’ve done it for decades already. But when it comes down to the race and culture of the bad guys, I have to admit that Reality is not really applicable.

I thought about a comprehensive list of movies and the villains chosen, but that would be dry and miss the whole point. So instead, I will just call your attention to 2 movies of note. Both movies involved terrorists operating on American soil, with a determined and heroic movie star to stop them. Both films had big budgets and featured big-time stars, one with Denzel Washington and the other with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both had all the normal ingredients for a big hit, including the necessary big booms (one even had a nuke) and intense dramatic scores. Neither was a bomb, exactly, but neither did very well at the box office for the caliber of stars and directors they carried, either. Both featured Arab terrorists, accurate in dress, appearance, and mannerisms. And no one I have met, to this day, remembers the villains’ names or their plans in the films “The Siege” or “True Lies”. The villains, as movies go, were flops.

Consider, on the other hand, villains portrayed in the films “Die Hard” and “Swordfish”. Were Hans Gruber or Gabriel Shear believable, or representative of any known terrorist group? No. Did the audience care? No. The smooth, urbane delivery of their lines, even as they killed innocent people, made them very appealing to the audience. The audience, after all, did not buy tickets to see a documentary on the characteristics and methods of the modern terrorist cell, but to see slick people look cool for a couple hours, saying and doing things you do not ordinarily see in your regular day. Seriously, does anybody really believe, for example, that if a woman became a hired assassin, as in “La Femme Nikita”, she’d look half as good as Anne Parillaud does, or that anyone can wear designer clothing and look as good after combat as they do before? If the ‘James Bond’ movies taught us anything, it’s that the desire to willingly suspend our disbelief is very strong.

So, the next time you see a villain on TV or the movies, just remember that Hollywood is not selling the truth, just a product to make money. It’s only when someone like CBS or Michael Moore forgets that they’re selling a slick lie, that it’s necessary to call them out.

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