Hollywood’s Last Stand

Americans are the only safe villains left.

article-2656810-1EB7C4F100000578-425_634x351Americans are the only people in the world who go to see movies in which they are the villains.

Russians stayed away from Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit with its Slavic villains (though Chinese audiences liked it well enough). And movies with Chinese villains can’t get made because the People’s Republic has more devastating penalties for offending studios than a mere hacking. Instead of leaking private emails, the studios simply aren’t allowed to release their movies in the world’s second biggest film market.

Hollywood’s titans take a break from patting themselves on the back for their commitment to freedom of expression and eagerly rush to work with the censors of the Chinese Communist Party to make their movies acceptable to China.

Muslim villains can’t appear in movies at all since September 11. The last time a movie had a villain named Mohammed, the filmmaker ended up hauled out of his home and tossed into jail. Hillary Clinton, Hollywood’s choice, had assured grieving Benghazi family members that instead of punishing their son’s killers, she would “have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.”

With script control like that, it’s no wonder that you don’t see many Muslim movie villains. Not when Hillary is planning her presidential victory tour.

What does all that leave Hollywood scriptwriters with? Aliens, comic book villains and North Korea.

North Korea is a perfect villain because it isn’t a film market. Even possession of an American film can mean death. You can’t release the next weepy melodrama or comic book movie there which makes it fair game. And so a small nasty country with no sense of humor became the favorite movie villain of a gutless entertainment industry.

James Bond took on North Koreans in Die Another Day, the North Koreans invaded the White House in Olympus Has Fallen (or rather a radical faction of North Koreans, even before the Sony hack Hollywood was staking out a cautious position) and took over America in the Red Dawn remake.

These cinematic victories over North Koreans (or North Korean extremists) were hollow displays of Hollywood cowardice and the panicked response to The Interview stripped the hollow pretense of that courage away. And all that remains is the Great American Villain.

If Hollywood can’t even pick on North Korea, a country with no political or economic influence in the West, then it has no safe targets left. All that Hollywood can do is continue exporting anti-Americanism in movies which make the American military and American traditionalists into the villains.

Anti-American movies are a safe export. By making anti-American movies, Hollywood saves Russia and China a lot of money on propaganda. Instead of having to manufacture their own stories about the Yankee Devils, they can buy them directly from the Yankee Devils.

Or as Lenin was said to have put it, “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

The entertainment industry has made anti-Americanism into its biggest export. In another age, Hollywood exported the values of a vibrant and promising nation. Now it exports dystopian fantasies, post-apocalyptic societies, corporate made satires about corporations and other narratives which depict the collapse and fall of America as the inevitable outcome of its dysfunctional society and warped values.

North Korea could never make better anti-American movies than Hollywood does. It’s one reason why Hollywood movies play to large audiences in countries like China and Russia where America is disliked.

This is the courageous storytelling that the entertainment industry prides itself on as it cringes before dictators while abusing Americans. But courage was never Hollywood’s strength. Before Hollywood studios were allowing Chinese Communists to censor their movies, they had extended that same privilege to Nazi Germany.

Joe Kennedy warned Hollywood, “You guys are going to be responsible for pushing the United States into war against the Nazis unless you stop your anti-Nazi films, your anti-Hitler propaganda.”

But Joe was wasting his time. Between Hollywood’s Communists (the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League changed its name to American Peace Mobilization once Hitler and Stalin made their dirty deal) and the native cowardice of the studio bosses, there wasn’t much to censor.

The Nazi as the standby villain had to wait until the actual Nazis had been defeated. Real Nazis were too dangerous to offend. So were Communists and Islamic terrorists. And now even North Koreans.

Regardless of who was behind the Sony hack, the industry reacted with kneejerk appeasement. That was the way that MGM had reacted to Nazi demands for censorship. Before theaters were turning their backs on The Interview, British theaters were turning up their noses at Chaplin’s self-financed The Great Dictator because it might offend Hitler at a time when appeasement was still the watchword.

While The Interview has been compared to The Great Dictator, Chaplin made his movie because he genuinely thought that Hitler needed to be opposed. By contrast The Interview is a typically ironic muddle with no moral center whose only reason for existing is its own miserably unfunny absurdity.

What Chaplin had was a point of view. Hollywood tends to have a political agenda, but nothing it will fight for or defend. Nothing that it truly believes in.

Hollywood has a long history of pandering to totalitarian regimes and ideologies. The difference is that it no longer does so under American colors. Instead it pretends to speak truth to power with its anti-Americanism while pandering to every dictator abroad.

With its British stars, Australian locations and Qatari investors, there isn’t much American about Hollywood these days except its anti-Americanism. That is one reason why Hollywood movies often perform better abroad than they do at home. Hollywood is becoming irrelevant in America. North American box office receipts fell 5 percent this year and 15 percent during the summer.

But that doesn’t matter because the international box office is holding strong.

A post-American entertainment industry naturally draws on American villains. Its stock of foreign villains is now exhausted. After the Sony hack, studios rushed to cancel North Korean themed movies before even waiting for the outcome of the investigation. And without North Korean villains to implausibly seize the White House and invade America, that leaves Americans as the villains.

At a time when few countries are willing to tolerate being ‘villainized’ in Hollywood films, Americans are still expected to subsidize their own demonization.

Unlike North Korea, Hollywood doesn’t take them seriously.

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