Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The Nazis have always been Hollywood’s go-to villains, the bad guys every American who isn’t an antisemite or eugenicist can agree are the epitome of evil. They also serve as a convenient substitute when Hollywood doesn’t want to address America’s real-world enemies; in 2001, for example, when filmmakers were adapting Tom Clancy’s thriller The Sum of All Fears for the big screen, they changed the antagonists from Arab terrorists to European neo-Nazis. But Hollywood’s neo-Nazis of today are – you guessed it – American patriots.
Case in point: In the Shadow of the Moon, a late 2019 addition to Netflix’s repertoire which is unlikely to have been seen by the vast and growing numbers of conservatives who have cancelled their subscription to the left-leaning streaming giant, the home of production deals with such radicals as Barack and Michelle Obama and anthem-protesting Colin Kaepernick. For that matter, the movie is unlikely to have been seen by very many people of any political stripe, because it’s not worth watching; its audience rating at the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site is a blah 40, and the rating at Metacritics isn’t much higher (I watch these things so you don’t have to). But the film is notable as a reminder that the entertainment industry is the left’s most powerful weapon for fashioning and disseminating the narrative that American patriots are actually white supremacist domestic terrorists threatening to push the country into a hot civil war.
Mild spoilers follow.
The story of In the Shadow of the Moon opens in 1988 in Philadelphia – the birthplace of American independence and home of the Liberty Bell (the location’s patriotic associations are significant). It is the scene of the simultaneous, mysterious murders of three seemingly random individuals, including a bus driver whose prominently-featured reading material is a biography of Thomas Jefferson. Officer Thomas Lockhart, a patrol car cop and aspiring detective, is the first to discover a bizarre link to the three deaths, beating his detective brother-in-law (played by the only “name” actor in the film: Michael C. Hall, Showtime’s Dexter) to the punch: the victims have been injected with something that rapidly corrodes their brains and causes massive hemorrhaging. The suspect is a young mixed-race woman in a hoodie. Lockhart confronts her and, strangely, she seems to know personal details about his life. But she is accidentally killed by a train while trying to escape, and without her or a motive, the case is closed.
Fast forward nine years. Lockhart is now a detective and single father (his wife died in childbirth) struggling to make ends meet. He is investigating murders that seem to be copycats of those from nine years earlier. Again Lockhart’s doggedness leads him to a confrontation with the suspect – and it is the same woman, alive and no older than before. But she escapes, and again the murders languish unsolved.
Fast forward another nine years to 2006. Lockhart is a private detective now, off the police force, and so obsessed with the bizarre mystery that he no longer has time to shower or to trim his tangled mess of overgrown hair and beard (because that’s Hollywood’s visual shorthand for obsessed people). He believes the murder suspect is from the future, traveling back in time to target her victims. His weirdness has alienated his now high school-graduating daughter, because it is a given in Hollywood thrillers that the male protagonists are neglectful, workaholic dads whose kids can barely conceal their disappointment and impatience with them. And his brother-in-law is tired of pretending Lockhart isn’t unhinged.
But Lockhart is right, and his obsessive digging has unearthed a clue: that many of the victims were linked through a mailing list belonging to one of them, now deceased: a Confederate flag-owning, white supremacist gun nut who ranted in newsletters about “globalist elites” and who sparked a movement called Real America Patriots. They are what Lockhart calls “a fringe militia group who want to take the country back for the true patriots. Homemade fertilizer bombs. You know the type.”
Yes, we know the type – at least, the stereotype: white, Second Amendment-supporting, anti-Big Government, Fox News-watching conservatives who revere the Founding Fathers and the Constitution and who have legitimate concerns about those globalist elites and who do want to take the country back – at the ballot box – for true patriots. The left has labeled these new Nazis “white nationalists” (leftists never acknowledge that there are patriots of all races) whose “white rage,” as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley put it to Congress, leftists claim is the defining characteristic of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
These are the true patriots which In the Shadow of the Moon, and today’s Democrat party, explicitly link to domestic terrorism.
Anyway, the secretive Real America Patriot newsletters are distributed to its subscribers concealed in books about American presidents: the aforementioned Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, George Washington. Because people who read biographies about such figures instead of tearing down the monuments to them obviously must be racist insurrectionists.
It isn’t necessary or relevant to dwell any further on the movie’s plot details, since it’s not worth it. As even the Hollywood industry rag Variety acknowledges, In the Shadow of the Moon is a woke movie, “but one that will put you to sleep.” A reviewer at RogerEbert.com complains that the film “isn’t effective as sci-fi, action, noir, mystery, or even social commentary, even though it has elements of all of the above.” It is laden with tedious, overlong chase scenes, Lockhart is a charisma-free hero, and the time-travel element is more plot-muddling than mind-bending.
The salient point is that the evil at the heart of this self-serious thriller is violent white nationalism, which is equated with love of country, gun ownership, flag-waving, and admiration for the Founding Fathers. Released in 2019, In the Shadow of the Moon pre-dates the January 6, 2021 Capitol protest that Democrats insist on labeling an “insurrection” and an even more egregious threat to democracy than the 9/11 attacks, but the movie fits right in with that false narrative.
The filmmakers don’t seem to have any moral issue with the fact that the hoodied woman is traveling back in time (every nine years when a time-traveling window presents itself) to murder people for crimes they haven’t even conspired to commit yet. She tells Lockhart that she came back to erase an idea before the “fear and anger” it engendered could lead to violent civil war. “Some thoughts are meant to be buried,” she intones as the camera focuses on the cover of a book titled George Washington: Founding Father for All Time, “some before they even begin.” What a perfect metaphor for the radical left’s yearning to eradicate their political opponents’ ideas and thoughts, rather than engage them in debate; to eliminate their rights and freedoms; and indeed, to assassinate them brutally and pre-emptively.
Imagine if the filmmakers had made a less predictable and stereotyped choice, and made the villains in the movie thinly-veiled versions of Black Lives Matter revolutionaries or Antifa anarchists or Islamic terrorists – you know, real-world threats to American democracy. Of course, this would be unthinkable in the left-dominated entertainment industry today; such a politically verboten project wouldn’t get out of the starting gate. The movie could only be made independently, and even then would face distribution roadblocks and/or be savaged (or completely ignored) by movie critics, who almost all lean left.
But demonizing true patriots apparently will get any screenplay green-lit at Netflix, even one as mediocre as In the Shadow of the Moon.