Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see Iron Man 3. We’d enjoyed the first two Iron Man movies, even if they were a bit on the slow side. But the third is certainly the best of the three. It moves the fastest, has the most spectacular action sequences, and features Robert Downey Jr.’s fast-talking Tony Stark outside his suit for the vast majority of the film.
It also makes light of Islamic terrorism.
Here’s where you should stop reading if you still want to see the film and not be spoiled by knowledge of the ending.
If you’re still reading, you won’t be surprised if I say that the whole enterprise has an anti-American feel. The film opens with an act of terrorism by what appears to be a terrifying Islamist who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). The Mandarin is obviously a planning genius, a scholar of world history (or at least of the works of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn), and a frightening foe with access to the President of the United States’ cell phone.
Except that he isn’t. As it turns out, The Mandarin, whom we are assured will shoot you in the head if you dare to look at him, is actually a drug-addled Britisher in the employ of two brilliant white scientists. He explains to Tony Stark that he has been wooed by a steady stream of hallucinogenics and women. He is, in short, an idiot.
This isn’t much of a twist. As you’ll recall if you saw the first Iron Man, the Islamist terrorists who originally bomb Tony Stark’s convoy, the Ten Rings, do so at the behest of another white warmonger, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). This is a well-worn plot device. In 24, Islamist terrorists routinely act on the orders of some white, European oligarchy of evil. When Hollywood produced The Sum of All Fears, they went so far as to replace the novel’s Palestinian terrorists with neo-Nazis out to set off nukes.
There are three forces at work in Hollywood’s resistance to naming Islamic terror for what it is. The first is simple anti-Americanism. Some folks in Hollywood have been so steeped in Zinn-type history that they think that Islamic terrorists are largely justified in their dislike for the United States, and are therefore loathe to cast them as the black hats in the movies. This is the Matt Damon (Green Zone), George Clooney (Syriana) philosophy of foreign policy.
The second rationale for burying Islamic terrorism is political correctness. Political correctness dictates that all cultures are created equal and are morally equivalent. That means that if we’re seeing more Islamist terrorism than Swedish terrorism in the world, it’s just because we’re putting too much focus on Islamic terrorism, which we encourage by noticing it. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews stated a couple of weeks ago, “All we do is kill Arabs on international television. I think that might have something to do with jihad.”
The third rationale is the most nefarious: the soft bigotry of low expectations for Islamic terrorists. According to many on the left, they can’t be that competent or that scary. They can’t be good at terrorism. They’re Arabs, after all, and if they are successfully evil it’s probably some sinister white person in the background directing the action.
Whatever the rationale, Iron Man 3 buys into it. And it does so with alacrity. Not only does the film label Islamic terrorism a non-threat, it mocks expressions of patriotism (Don Cheadle’s Iron Patriot is derided as an idiotic knockoff of Iron Man, and foolishly breaks down random doors in Pakistan when the real villains are in that terrorism hotspot, Miami). The real threat of terrorism, says Hollywood, lies in all of us. It lies in our frustrations and our anger.
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