By lex, on August 28th, 2011
The US military should allow anti-military filmmakers open access to their personnel and use of their equipment.
The longer and more nuanced reading is that the military exercises some control over Hollywood movie scripts which ask to use actual military personnel and equipment. This is cast by Mr. Sirota as something akin to prior restraint of free speech rather than organizational prudence, Hollywood directors and writers typically having exactly zero understanding of how the military actually works. This lack of experience and comprehension is buttressed by their fixed preconceptions. So the military says this: Go ahead and tar our servicemen with your broad brushes of ignorance and bile if you’d like. Just don’t expect us to underwrite your smear campaigns. Or: Work with us to ensure that 1) you get to make your money so long as the portrayal of our forces is fair, and so long as it fits within the normal training and operation of the force. We’ll bend over backwards, in other words. We just won’t bend over forwards.
Which to me seems fair.
Mr. Sirota’s angst apparently has something to do with Gerry Bruckheimer’s forgettable 1986 movie “Top Gun“, which he believes somehow altered the American viewpoint to the extent that we actually “love war”. Because of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. And that.
Despite the fact that there wasn’t any actual, you know: War. In the movie Top Gun. Just a little beach volleyball, and a couple of splashed MiGs to go with two crashed Tomcats.
The problem for Mr. Sirota isn’t that there haven’t been any anti-war films in this generation. The problem would be that they haven’t been very commercially successful, and thus have failed to shift public opinion in the direction Mr. Sirota would like to see it moved. In fact, they pretty much sucked. Perhaps Mr. Sirota believes that if the military had allowed the directors of anti-Iraq war movies Redacted and In The Valley of Elah (just to name two) to use actual military equipment, those movies wouldn’t have failed so abysmally at the box office.
Perhaps. But perhaps it’s true that the American people simply don’t like Hollywood elites and their media allies trying to tell them that the actions of a despicable few – as depicted by those with no personal understanding of heroism or sacrifice – reflect the valor, endurance and patriotism of the forces sent to fight, no matter who it was that sent them.
In fact, probably one of the most influential movies of recent times – far more influential than the merely entertaining, entirely implausible Top Gun – was Tom Hank’s 1998 “Saving Private Ryan,” which brought to the current culture’s attention both the human cost of war and the heroism of a generation that was by and large too humble to talk about their accomplishments in saving Western Civilization. That movie was made without direct US military involvement, and with Irish soldiers serving as extras. It managed to simultaneously be anti-war without being anti-warrior, a crucial distinction which was a reaction to the demented, drugged and degraded baby-killer movies so favored by the post-Vietnam War generation of directors and writers.
We’ve come a long way since then, in a way that I think represents real progress. Mr. Sirota, I gather, disagrees. He disagrees, I intuit, because popular movies made with military cooperation tend to portray the guardians of the Republic in a favorable light. Mr. Sirota clearly would prefer that they be portrayed differently.
The US military has a frightfully important job to do in a world where perils lurk in the shadows and regional competitors loom on the horizon. Expecting the military to collaborate with the anti-military elements within Hollywood against its own interests – and that of the nation it defends – is facially absurd.
I’m sure that Mr. Sirota believes that he has a frightfully important job of his own to do.
I’m just not sure what it is.