Through the glamorous lens of the entertainment industry, reality is filtered into themes that are easily digested by a not-too-disconcerted general public. Our legacy of genocide, slavery, racial injustice and the subculture of poverty it spawned is routinely and conveniently swept under the carpet, in favor of cultivating juvenile forms of hero worship and glorifying violence as the only rational, effective and efficient approach to conflict resolution.
The silly premise that the social injustices tearing at the fabric of modern society can be rectified through the gratuitous use of firepower, spinning back kicks and unlimited ammo would be humorous were it not so dangerous and self-defeating.
Hollywood fabricates a tragically warped vision of the world outside our personal experience. In Westerns, the good guy is white, handsome, clean-shaven, well-groomed and morally pure. It is implied that the adversary — unshaven, sweaty and dirty — harbors immoral intentions and an unsavory predilection toward evil.
People of color, more often than not, are given roles perpetuating cultural stereotypes, building on an unnatural but ongoing Caucasian phobia of darker skin.
Advertisers, trained in the art of creating need and selling gratification, now take into account that a growing percentage of the domestic market is ethnically diverse. It took a long time for them to come to this realization, but their pragmatism is slowly superseding prejudice, in the interest of revenue.
War flicks glorify nationalism and sacrifice by the allies, while violations of international law are only addressed when perpetrated by the enemy. Accurately penetrating this elaborate web of deception requires a resolute and inquisitive persistence.
History, written honestly, diverges extensively from the myths perpetuated by cinematic dramatization and from the romantic drivel spoon-fed by our whitewashed assembly-line public education. The path to any kind of “true enlightenment” is systemically blocked by design, in favor of producing a docile workforce that can be manipulated by fear and the empty promises of lifelong security and comfort.
In Iraq, news of torture and other unethical treatment of POWs exposed the U.S. to global accusations of hypocrisy and rampant religious bigotry in our military ranks. There is an investigation and hearing into the British Army’s perverse abuse of virtually every Iraqi they detained. But I’ll venture that future public school students in the United Kingdom and the U.S. will be spared these embarrassing and compromising details, because the winner pens the tale of history. Nor are they likely to find reference to the endemic sexual abuse of female military members by their male comrades-in-arms, or to the underlying causes of the escalating rate of suicide among our combat veterans.
Inevitably, we learn that war is not glorious, that we are really all the same and many of the things we were taught were wrong. We can’t shoot, detonate, kick or punch our way out of corruption, fiscal mismanagement, global warming or any of the other forms of white-collar crime that plague us.
The majority of TV and movie producers, writers and directors apparently are not up to the challenge of creating characters who exhibit the capacity for introspection and personal growth.
Fortunately for them, it has proven more convenient and profitable to increasingly appeal to our basest and most incorrectly informed instincts by serving up a spectacular, if mind-numbing, potpourri of inane slaughter and vapid dialogue. Women continue to be routinely consigned to the traditional, demeaning roles of vacant eye candy, destined to be nothing more than the spoils of victory for the heroes.
It is a fact that words and images do not kill, and that nobody can accurately assess the influence that movies, shows, video games and their compadre — the evening news — have on society in general or in particular. But if the color blue symbolizes tranquility, then our culture emits dark red as we continue to reject wisdom and the pursuit of social harmony, in favor of the glorification and immortalization of male hormonal rage and a pathological obsession with swift and rectifying vengeance.
Consider the prospects for our country 100 years from now if we continue to allow ourselves to be exploited by the same old, tired, worthless propaganda.