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Andrew Klavan @ City Journal

Syriana Official Movie Poster

When Hollywood Hit Rock Bottom

One of the common conservative refrains of the past ten years is Hollywood’s apparent treachery with respect to depictions of the US military effort.  This apparent forsaking of duty is what Andrew Klavan, author of various mystery novels and young adult thrillers, frequent critic of Hollywood, deems to be Hollywood hitting rock bottom.

With respect to the author, I believe that honor belongs to this gem.  But I ain’t mad at him…heeey.  Let’s break it down! (After the jump)

Hollywood’s lockstep leftist filmmakers have long busied themselves with a range of shameful enterprises.

SawSaw 2Saw 3Saw 4Saw 5Saw 6Saw 3D…ok, I’m with you so far.

They have peddled and celebrated a wholly distorted and negative vision of American manners in dishonest films epitomized by American Beauty (1999).

Distorted and negative? Was it the dysfunctional family life that didn’t ring true? The disillusionment with the American dream? The United States has the highest incidence of divorce and depression in the world.  Not sure what you’re not agreeing with here.

They have sold the self-contradicting nonsense of moral relativism in films such as The Reader (2008).

I don’t think you understood The Reader. I hope this isn’t an ongoing theme of your article.

They have routinely depicted the U.S. government and U.S. corporations as bad actors in world events, as in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Well, like it or not, recent history portrays the US that way too, in some respects.  While I tend to agree with the policy of preemption, preemption alone doesn’t make for a good movie subject.  Maybe you should have scripted one?

And—in what some observers consider a conscious scheme by a likeminded filmland clique—they have maintained a small but steady effort to normalize the sexual abuse of children in films like Little Children, The Woodsman, Towelhead, and more.

“Some insiders” such as who…your friends? Do you really think there’s a Hollywood plot afoot to make people accept the abuse of children?

But when it comes to sheer shamefulness, the conformist “radicals” of Hollywood outdid themselves in the years after the Islamofascist attacks on 9/11. When the United States responded to these atrocities by attempting to destroy the terrorist staging grounds in Afghanistan and establish a beachhead of Middle Eastern democracy in Iraq, Hollywood reacted by churning out propaganda movies that could only demoralize our allies and bolster our low and savage enemies: Syriana, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, Green Zone, Body of Lies, Stop Loss, and on and on.

Syriana, Redacted, Green Zone and In the Valley of Elah were based on true events. Rendition was based on actual CIA practices. Stop Loss was based on actual army practices. Didn’t see Lions for Lambs or Body of Lies but Lions for Lambs seems relatively even handed (unless you’re objecting to the fact that soldiers got killed?) and Body of Lies seems no different than the typical season of 24. What would you rather Hollywood do? Besides, most of these movies got mixed reviews or worse with commensurate box office showings. Why the boo hooing?

Many of these films portrayed our soldiers and intelligence officers as rapists, murderers, torturers, or noble fools manipulated by conniving Republicans.

To be fair, they portrayed a handful of soldiers and intelligence officers as those things. Guess what? So did the news, when stories of rape, murder and torture came to light. As for being noble fools, that’s a matter of opinion that’s been around long before Hollywood existed (Dulce et decorum est, wot?).  Not that I agree.

Not one of them (including the excellent HBO film Taking Chance and the flawed but powerful Hurt Locker, which at least showed our troops in a positive light) depicted the wars themselves as good or noble endeavors.

As I said, I support the policy of preemption as a means of protecting our interests, but at the time of the invasion of Iraq, before we even knew we wouldn’t find WMDs, popular opinion was split at best. By the end of W’s term, the majority of Americans regretted the war. Doesn’t really seem like Hollywood is so out of line with the rest of popular opinion, just yours. Yet you pillory them for not going against their opinions as well as the opinions of their markets because they didn’t support some vague notion of goodness and nobility as it relates to invading foreign countries. You would have made an excellent propaganda officer.

Hollywood exists to create art and/or to make money. “War is noble” has been out of vogue in the art world since roughly the time of the Roman emperors and making films that support ideas counter to those of the American people hardly seems like a way to make money (how did Atlas Shrugged fare at the box office?).

Besides Chance and Locker, these films were bad and they were bombs, showing that ideology, not art or commerce, dictated their content.

Art is ideology and vice versa and I’m sure that they intended the films to be successful commercially. That they weren’t is likely evidence for the fact that after living in a period of sustained war and unease, moviegoers didn’t want to pay $12 at the box office to see it on the big screen for two hours, whatever the tone.

It was the dark mirror image of Hollywood’s patriotic response to Pearl Harbor in the 1940s, a living diagram of what the Left has wrought in our cultural lives since then.

Well the US government was pretty directly involved in that response and the American peoples’ temperament was significantly different as well. While WW2 was a battle among essentially imperial powers that involved the struggle for freedom of entire peoples, the narrative around 9/11 is significantly different. While we bandy about the line that they hate our way of life and our loose morals (which is probably true, but you don’t see jihadists blowing themselves up in Ibiza), terrorist sentiment toward the US probably has a little more to do with our presence in the middle east and our support of Israel. You’re not going to mobilize a film industry and an entire people around those concepts.

Now there is talk of a film memorializing the killing of bin Laden, and soldiers and veterans are beginning to show up as heroes in pictures like Source Code. But the fact that film depictions of the military may change somewhat now that a Democratic president has taken over and expanded on the war policies put in place by his Republican predecessor provides no excuse for what happened.

In other words, you’re pissed that they’re going to make a pro-American war movie that might make a Democratic president look good? I’m no Democrat, but that’s a pretty lame position.

When America really needed them, our filmmakers betrayed her.

What? America “really needs” Hollywood in the summer, when we want to watch movies about giant robots killing each other. Hollywood is about the last entity I look to in wartime, either for information or comfort.

And because their unpatriotic products were made while our troops were under fire in the field, they constitute, when considered together, an unprecedentedly wicked action by an industry that rose to success and power through celebrating the nation and values that it now mindlessly attacks.

I buy this when it comes to the media revealing military positions/secrets/etc, but I hardly doubt the Taliban or Al Qaeda were emboldened because George Clooney produced a political thriller about oil politics.

The majority of artists are not deep or original thinkers. They are merely people gifted with the ability to give “a local habitation and a name” to the ideas their intellectual guides and mentors find fashionable.

We never hear about the majority of artists. While the logical positivist in me wants to take you to task for your use of inference here, I’ll ignore it. As for the Shakespeare quote, does it matter if the intellectual ideas informing the work are homegrown or borrowed from others? Do all of your young adult thrillers contain original philosophy?

The Left is still ascendant in our academies and media. More than that, it is committed to strangling, through blacklists and unfounded charges of racism and bigotry, the intellectual diversity that might challenge their primacy.

This is probably true, although if right wing thinkers were hegemonic, I doubt they’d be going out of their way to give a forum to left wing ideas. Just think of how you’ve treated the left wing in your article: you’re not all so different.

As a result, many of our artists’ minds have become straitjacketed by “progressive” and relativist notions that had their heyday among honest thinkers 50 years ago and have been crashing and burning in the real world ever since.

Postmodernism has been crashing and burning in the real world? You may not like relativism (I don’t buy it either), but to say it’s crashing and burning might be ringing the victory bell a bit prematurely. As for “many of our artists,” is that an admission that many haven’t become straitjacketed? Sounds like there’s a mix of opinion with respect to progressivism. Weren’t you just complaining about “The Left” hating intellectual diversity? Now you are too?

It’s no surprise, then, that most of our creative types have failed to formulate a forthright response to the ongoing Islamist threat—the dual threat of open violence and Sharia imperialism.

What response do you need to a system that is manifestly backwards and evil? Do you really think Hollywood producers and directors envy or respect sharia law? Of course not. Do you know what you call art that addresses questions to which everybody already knows the answer in a straightforward manner? Bad art.

What would you want to see here? A sort of “The Passion of the Christ” about the treatment of minorities in the Middle East? A “Hostel” for captured American servicemen?

That response requires the death of nonsensical relativism and the rebirth of foundational values.

No, that response requires somebody to say “hey, even though this is embarrassingly obvious and everybody agrees with us and pursuing this has no real artistic merit, let’s do it! USA! USA! USA!” Which is fine, except nobody is going to do that. Again, why don’t you or your friends at Big Hollywood do it?

Post-postmodern intellectuals need to understand that, just as the grand and reasoned structure of mathematics stands on the rock of unshakeable axioms, so the cathedral of human morality is built on certain truths. These truths that we hold to be self-evident—that people are endowed not by governments but by their Creator with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are not good for some people sometimes but for all people eternally.

Personally, I agree with you that certain morals are axiomatic, but you’re setting up a straw man here. Nobody in Hollywood (other than maybe Sean Penn and Jane Fonda, but that’s another story) is saying that the terrorists are good and we’re bad, or that sharia is good and liberal democracy is bad. They’re simply suggesting that there’s an alternate interpretation of US politics and current events. This isn’t ridiculous.

As such, they are not only a humane basis for opposition to Islamism, but the very stuff and soul of art—the beginning of a reclamation from its current degeneracy and shame.

I can’t claim to be intelligent or educated enough to distill the stuff and soul of art down to a few simple principles, but whatever. Your entire argument seems to be that Hollywood, indeed all art, exists to support objective moral truths. How interesting would culture be if that was the case.

On a more localized level, you seem to suggest that touching on themes beyond exalting the nobility of our military action is degenerate. Please. The vast majority of our soldiers do serve nobly, but the actions of those soldiers who raped that 14-year old girl (Redacted, which you apparently hated artistically and philosophically, was about this) and the officers who attempted to cover up the scandal do far more to hurt our cause with our allies and embolden our opposition than Tinsel Town ever could, even if they actually tried to.

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