Hollywood’s Messaging Meltdown

Hollywood studios have offered Americans a steady diet of antiwar messaging, but Americans aren’t biting. Major releases have tallied less than independent documentaries in US theaters, while family fare and more mainstream films profit from their collapse. Investors Business Daily wonders whether Hollywood has gotten the message on messaging:

Why doesn’t Hollywood cut to the chase the next time it wants to insult the public with a new war-on-terror film and just call it “Bombs Away”? As movies depicting U.S. troops as bad guys and terrorists as sensitive, misunderstood souls continue to crank out, the industry needs to take its puny box office returns as a wake-up call from the public.
Despite top star billings, big-foot directors, the best publicity money can buy and critical acclaim, the public just isn’t biting. The problem is the content.
“Redacted,” gave us the Christmasy theme of Iraqi rape starring U.S. troops as rapists. It drew just $10,039 over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo, and $34,000 at its open.
Meanwhile “Rendition,” which showed terrorists as pensive souls, bombed too. “A Mighty Heart,” depicting terrorists’ war on the West as “understandable,” was a dud. “Syriana,” portraying U.S. intelligence officers as crooks in bed with Big Oil, also fared poorly. “Lions For Lambs,” a long anti-war monologue, bored people out of the Cineplex.
Critics say the lousy returns show the public is fatigued with the war. But name one film supportive of the U.S. war in Iraq, making heroes of the war’s real heroes, such as our troops or even Iraq’s democrats. Name one that portrays al-Qaida terrorists as the cold-blooded Islamofascist killers they really are.
The public isn’t sated on good Iraq films; in reality, it’s famished.

Part of the problem lies with quality as well as the messaging. Brian DePalma made Redacted, and DePalma is one of the most overrated, self-conscious directors in Hollywood. Almost everything he makes sits on the sharp edge of camp, and his latest effort apparently goes way over the edge. Lions for Lambs got panned more for its droning dialogue and dreary pace. A Mighty Heart should have gripped audiences, but the movie drifted away from its central purpose — recounting the bravery of Daniel Pearl and the death he suffered because of it — to musing on the moral relativism Hollywood sees in terrorism, a theme explicitly covered in last year’s Munich.
IBD says that the success of films like Enchanted shows the market supports films without an anti-US note in it. I’d argue that IBD compares apples and oranges. The film market is broad enough to support a wide range of themes, as long as the filmmakers produce well-made movies in those themes. Enchanted has its messages, too; it pushes back against the hip, cynical attitude of Americans in a more subversive way than some might think. American Gangster explores the underside of American society, and it has proven very popular with filmgoers.
What people find objectionable is the obvious effort put into political messaging this year by Hollywood. It’s not that they don’t recognize an audience exists for stories about heroes like Paul Smith and Michael Murphy; it’s that they appear so contemptuous of that audience. Instead of producing films that address those parts of the War on Terror, they pander to the antiwar political factions — and as happens with most pandering art, produce mediocrities or worse.

One thought on “Hollywood’s Messaging Meltdown”

  1. Full Didactic Jacket

    Roger Simon makes a great point about Hollywood’s current crop of anti-war/anti-American movies. Their lack of passion and paint-by-numbers formula are killing them at the domestic box office almost as much as their politics: Now that Brian De Palma’s …

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