Saturday, January 12, 2008
Why America Doesn't Want America To Want To See Movies About The War
That title is misleading, because it implies that I have an answer to that question, and I don't. But after a week's worth of reaction to the New Hampshire primary results and how the media has seemed so invested in telling the American public what they're thinking before the people get to have their say, I have a similar question about the movies: why has the media had such a hard-on about telling us that "America Didn't Want To See Movies About The War"?
I'm bringing this up because just this morning I read in Entertainment Weekly how Kimberly Pierce's Stop-Loss is attempting to deal with this war-movie boogeyman by letting the potentially disgruntled sound off on the movie's web site. And of course, EW puts this under a misleading headline that basically says the movie is suffering from "bad buzz" even though the article doesn't say anything of the kind. It's just symptomatic of a media that has seemed, in the last 12 months or so, pretty invested in pushing the viewpoint that America doesn't want to watch movies about the war. Just like America didn't want to watch a movie about gay cowboys. Just like America didn't want to watch a Michael Moore documentary about 9/11. Just like (to be fair) America didn't want to watch a movie about the passion and death of Jesus Christ. The war thing seems more insidious to me because thus far it's working, if we're looking at the three high-profile box office failures that were Rendition, Lions For Lambs, and In The Valley Of Elah. And with that particular mission having been accomplished, no movie studio is going to touch an Iraq movie with a ten-foot pole, and thus one forum for discussing the political and military event of our lifetimes is going to be choked off. "Congratulations."
But, hey, I didn't see those movies either, so I guess that means I don't want to see movies about the war, then, right? Not quite. I didn't see Lions For Lambs because the reviews were toxic, I didn't see Elah because I hate Paul Haggis, and I didn't see Rendition because it was out of theatres in three weeks (and the reviews were pretty crappy besides). Trying to glean some political message out of what movies are or are not making money has always been dicey at best, and yet the media gleefully jumped all over the idea that nobody wanted to see anything with the war front and center. And that somehow that was okay, and that Hollywood should learn its lesson from this. In other words: "Stick to making sequels and comedies about women falling down, movie dorks, and let the American people ignore current events in peace." It's maddening and it's smug and it's attempting to silence discussion in a way that's antithetical to everything the media should be doing.
And it makes me want to buy tickets to every showing of Stop-Loss in the city, when the time comes, just to shut them up.