Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
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? 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 McClane, looks decidedly Arabic. Indeed, he played an Arab in an earlier movie.
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.
If I'm mistaken and there have been movies in which Islamists where the bad guys, please let me know. (If so, I'll bet they went straight to video.) Likewise for more movies in which Islamists are exonerated.
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.
One of the ironies is that you don't even need to create fictitious Islamist villains; the real ones are so classically evil. They order massive car bombings that kill hundreds of people; they launch chlorine gas attacks; they build torture chambers; they make videos of beheadings in which the victim screams in agony as his head is sawed off with a dull knife. These guys are a scriptwriters' dream. Quentin Tarantino couldn't think this stuff up.
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. If we think we see a bomb in every backpack, the terrorists are winning. 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. Wouldn't it be fitting if it were in a movie theater?