Hollywood Impressionism Distorts American Reality

The evening after the Academy Awards seems a good time to reflect on Hollywood’s relentless political message. Tomorrow, I will follow-up with a post on Argo, which won this year’s award for best picture. I will show that Argo is not as historically accurate or politically neutral as it seems.

In countless ways, in countless films, Hollywood promotes its worldview and, for the last 30 years, that has meant portraying our country in a critical, damaging light. The United States, in this view, is an arrogant and corrupt, often imperialistic and militaristic, world power. It fails to appreciate and accommodate other cultures, refuses to recognize the benefits of international cooperation, and places too much emphasis on its own democratic principles and way of life. Conservatives and Republicans bear the brunt of Hollywood blame; they are routinely caricatured as jingoistic, bigoted, and ill-informed. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are almost always generously portrayed.

Let’s look at some of the movies that, directly or indirectly, have advanced this point of view. 

A Few Good Men, The General’s Daughter, High Crimes, Murder at 1600, Enemy of the State and No Way Out all portrayed corruption at the highest levels of government, whether within the White House, the military, the CIA , the FBI, or the NSC. Under Fire, Bulworth, JFK, Missing, State of Siege, Nicaragua and The Quiet American – taken as a whole – portrayed American foreign policy as irredeemably aggressive and selfish. Dave, Dick, The American President, Clear and Present Danger, Nick of Time, The Birdcage and The Contender were all pleasingly simplistic in their (barely concealed) anti-Republican message. With its timely release in front of the 2000 presidential election — and its portrayal of Republicans as mean-spirited extremists — The Contender’s latent message was that Americans should vote against George W. Bush and for Al Gore. Movies that targeted President Bush while he was in office included W, Death of a President – and, to make sure children got the message, Scary Movie 4 and Transformers.      

Thus does bigger-than-life Hollywood try to enlighten us mortals, and to influence our politics. Cleverly crafted fiction appeals to our thought processes as if it were fact. Info-movies distort history in the name of dramatizing it. It’s as if we were incapable of thinking clearly about politics until our brain cells are stimulated by Hollywood’s domestic and foreign policy experts. Therein lies the problem. They are not experts, but ideologues. Most movie producers, directors, and writers have extremely limited knowledge of our history and political system, and are guilty of the very narrow-mindedness of which they accuse others.      

We Americans try not to be manipulated by the subtext of the silver screen. But, we should think twice about our movie-watching obsession, for the images are powerful and they are designed to create a false impression. They are designed to make our country, an entire political party, and a large segment of the American population look much, much worse than they are.

  1. Boisfeuras

    Not to mention that it was British embassy staff who first rescued the 6 American diplomats, hid them and then passed them on to the Canadians prior to their extraction. Quite the opposite of Mr Affleck’s claim in “Argo” that the “British turned them away”. A betrayal and a travesty.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2284479/Oscar-winning-Argo-joins-long-list-films-bash-Britain-bending-truth-suit-Hollywood.html

  2. Nick Stuart

    And the answer is????????

    We’ll probably have to be content with Hollywood productions like House of Cards which at least do not portray Leftist institutions (teacher’s unions, journalists) as knights in shining armor. Of course the media would never savage a Democrat the way they do Frank Underwood.

  3. R. Craigen

    The Canadians involved in the actual events portrayed, and the American hostages, take issue with Affleck’s storyline.  But not quite in the way you suggest — I have not seen the movie but apparently the contention is that the movie largely ignores the pivotal role of Canadians, relegating the actions of the Embassy staff more to that of a holding tank, while American heros commited acts of daring and heroism.  I’m not sure that fits with what you’re charging — perhaps I should watch the movie before commenting further.

    That Jimmy Carter supports this contention is notable, considering that he was president at the time and that the “inept Americans” storyline does not do his reputation any favours.  Maybe he figures he’s got nothing left to lose on that count … who knows?

  4. Joseph Eagar

    I watched Escape from Planet Earth the other day, and I was shocked at how much anti-American leftist ideology had made it into the final cut of the movie.  Usually Hollywood studios keep that sort of stuff out of children’s movies.

  5. Pilli

    Also of note are “documentaries” on TV such as Nova on PBS, National Geographic, and the History Channel.  Especially Nova.  They push AGW at every opportunity.

  6. Pilli
    Joseph Eagar: I watched Escape from Planet Earth the other day, and I was shocked at how much anti-American leftist ideology had made it into the final cut of the movie.  Usually Hollywood studios keep that sort of stuff out of children’s movies. · 3 minutes ago

    Have you seen “The Lorax”?  I took my granddaughter to see it.  I spent 45 minutes after it was over explaining everything (that I could remember) that was wrong with it.

  7. Joseph Eagar
    Pilli

    Joseph Eagar: I watched Escape from Planet Earth the other day, and I was shocked at how much anti-American leftist ideology had made it into the final cut of the movie.  Usually Hollywood studios keep that sort of stuff out of children’s movies. · 3 minutes ago

    Have you seen “The Lorax”?  I took my granddaughter to see it.  I spent 45 minutes after it was over explaining everything (that I could remember) that was wrong with it. · 9 minutes ago

    I’ve not seen it, no.  I’m always amused by people who obsess over trees; over-harvesting hasn’t been a problem for decades (if not more) in the West, has it?  And in countries where it is, I get the impression it’s as often to clear land for farming as anything else (especially since many of the rarer trees are internationally banned anyway, which makes exporting them harder).

  8. Anne R. Pierce
    Pilli

    Joseph Eagar: I watched Escape from Planet Earth the other day, and I was shocked at how much anti-American leftist ideology had made it into the final cut of the movie.  Usually Hollywood studios keep that sort of stuff out of children’s movies. · 3 minutes ago

    Have you seen “The Lorax”?  I took my granddaughter to see it.  I spent 45 minutes after it was over explaining everything (that I could remember) that was wrong with it. · 15 minutes ago

    I have  recently avoided movies except for Argo and a couple others, so I appreciate this and any more info. on recent movies. (I thought Argo was a safe bet!)

  9. Anne R. Pierce
    R. Craigen: The Canadians involved in the actual events portrayed, and the American hostages, take issue with Affleck’s storyline.  But not quite in the way you suggest — I have not seen the movie but apparently the contention is that the movie largely ignores the pivotal role of Canadians, relegating the actions of the Embassy staff more to that of a holding tank, while American heros commited acts of daring and heroism.  I’m not sure that fits with what you’re charging — perhaps I should watch the movie before commenting further.

    That Jimmy Carter supports this contention is notable, considering that he was president at the time and that the “inept Americans” storyline does not do his reputation any favours.  Maybe he figures he’s got nothing left to lose on that count … who knows? · 26 minutes ago

    Glad for the heads-up on this before I write tomorrow’s blog!

  10. FloppyDisk90

    Yea, Hollywood.  I don’t pay attention to those morons and I don’t think we ought to either.  They crave acknowledgement and validation, hence the Academy Awards.  Don’t humor them.

  11. Bubs

    Hollywood has, on numerous occasions, taken a significant historical event only to rewrite it and show that rewritten version to millions via their films. With little emphasis on history in America’s schools and society in general, there is no question that their version of events exists as the accepted account for many people. Black Hawk Down and Charlie Wilson’s War are examples of this. “Hollywood history,” as its been called, is something that must be checked. However, I am pessimistic that anything can or will be done given the popularity of its movies. I’d be interested to here your perspective on Zero Dark Thirty as well as Argo.

  12. MJBubba

    I read movie reviews.  I am discerning and make informed choices.  I have not seen any of the movies named in the post, but I am at least vaguely familiar with the basic storyline of all of them.

    Don’t patronize movies just because some of your friends might expect that you will see them.

    And turn off your television.  It rots your brain.

  13. Confucius, the Œcumenical Volgi

    I contend it’s a worse and farther-reaching problem than you describe. Movies are made these days for a global market, and when that doesn’t mean intentionally making them more anti-American, it takes intra-American status battles and codes them in such a way that America is the villain (when it’s really red-staters and those jocks and Mom and Dad in the artist’s sights).

    Here’s a longer form of the argument. Hover your mouse over the pictures for some additional jokes.

  14. 9thDistrictNeighbor

    I especially dislike when Hollywood projects modern sensibilities backwards onto history. The opening scene in Lincoln would absolutely never have happened; soldiers of any color would not have been so familiar and fresh with the President. Things that were only rumored (Thaddeus Stevens’ “relationship”) are presented as fact. This sort of thing has been going on since at least the seventies, with television shows like Little House and the Waltons. America gets its history from Hollywood, and much of it is wrong.My dh gets annoyed, but I will absolutely not allow ds to see most of the garbage sold as kids fare. If its not preachy, it is violent. I will do anything to prevent my child from becoming conditioned to the level on non-Looney-Tunes real violence in today’s culture. What little I saw of the Oscars last night was overwhelmingly dark, negative and violent. No wonder so many actors abuse substances.

  15. hobbithill

    I am one who totally agrees with this post. In fact, when I go to movies, which is rare now because for the most part all of Hollywood is liberal and their message leaves me cold, hopeless and dispirited,. That said, when I do go to movies and it is based on an actual event, I ALWAYS research the actual event so I have the correct facts and my head stays squarely on my shoulders. Case in point is Argo…if you stayed to read the credits, which I like to do, you will see close to the very end of the credits a sentence stating that the movie is LOOSELY based on the actual facts. And they could not have been more truthful. But, it is Hollywoods slant on facts and in my mind more fiction than fact. So, yes, Anne, I agree with your analysis of Hollywood and their attempt, successfully , to permeate our society young and old with their ideologies. 

  16. Anne R. Pierce
    9thDistrictNeighbor: I especially dislike when Hollywood projects modern sensibilities backwards onto history. The opening scene in Lincoln would absolutely never have happened; soldiers of any color would not have been so familiar and fresh with the President.  …. I will absolutely not allow ds to see most of the garbage sold as kids fare. If its not preachy, it is violent. I will do anything to prevent my child from becoming conditioned to the level on non-Looney-Tunes real violence in today’s culture. What little I saw of the Oscars last night was overwhelmingly dark, negative and violent. No wonder so many actors abuse substances. · 4 minutes ago

    Agree, but I think what we saw last night was much less dark, violent and negative than the average fare. This comes from walking in on my offspring watching –just any movies they came across on TV – and not believing the level of  disturbing violence/perversion I was seeing; insisting they turn the TV off.

  17. Devereaux

    Is it not interesting that while both Hollywood AND the left denigrate America, it has been the left that has been in charge of running this country since at least 1932. They are in charge – and still hate the place.

  18. Anne R. Pierce
    David Semark: Not to mention that it was British embassy staff who first rescued the 6 American diplomats, hid them and then passed them on to the Canadians prior to their extraction. Quite the opposite of Mr Affleck’s claim in “Argo” that the “British turned them away”. A betrayal and a travesty.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2284479/Oscar-winning-Argo-joins-long-list-films-bash-Britain-bending-truth-suit-Hollywood.html · 6 hours ago

    Thanks for this. I was not aware of this; was going to discuss Argo more in terms of some of the impressions it leaves about overall American foreign policy at the time, but maybe some of you who are  informed on the details of the mission itself can help me with my post later by filling in some of the blanks! I’d appreciate it.

  19. Devereaux

    Violence is everywhere. One problem with our society is that we have blocked off our children from seeing “normal” violence while exposing them to the fantasy vi0lence of Hollywood.

    People die. Animals die. They get slaughtered for food. Hunting takes life in order to continue life through the use of the animal for food. Very little in life is as violent as a real-life firefight, especially a protracted one with a significant pair of units involved.

    That said, I find movies have taken the attempt for “reality” to an extreme that is unnecessary. Saving Private Ryan has been lauded as realistic. But there IS NO reality in movies. You cannot “live” a firefight in the movies; it is always a voyeur experience, not the gut-wrenching one that a real fight is.

    ?So what is gained with this “reality”. ?Cannot the story be told without quite the amount of gore. I don’t think these movies “glorify” war even without such scenes. You can make those points well without quite that degree of “special effects”.

  20. TeeJaw

    I find some movies that are watchable without the intrusion of politics on Indieplex.  Here’s a couple that I found recently:  The Station Agent and The Mighty.

    I entered a movie theater for the first time in about 20 years to see Obama’s America: 2016.  That’s probably going to be the last time.

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