War, Politics, and Hollywood Cinema
There isn’t a movie that exists that doesn’t follow the basic rules of storytelling. These rules include elements like settings, themes, characters, and plot. One can argue that modern day action films tend to focus much more on special effects than the actual story; nonetheless, each genre has similar qualities within its production. One of the most important rules to be aware of is establishing a protagonist and antagonist relationship in the story. Essentially, these two characters represent the ongoing clash between the hero (good) and villain (evil) of the film. In other words, this decides whom the audience should like and dislike throughout the movie
I find it too much of a coincidence that many of the villains in Hollywood cinema have reflected the war enemies that America has faced at one point in time. It’s no secret that Hollywood cinema exerts an indirect influence over the lives of billions of people worldwide. In Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey, talks about how films correlate with the ruling ideologies of our society. This isn’t hard to believe since during war times, citizens hear many political speeches, ads, news coverage and other propaganda that are meant to sway the public’s opinion. “However self-conscious and ironic Hollywood managed to be, it always restricted itself to a formal mise-en-scene reflecting the dominant ideological concepts.” (Mulvey 711).
Take a look at this clip from the 1963 film, From Russia With Love. In this particular movie, James Bond’s sole mission is to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen. Regardless of the plot,the film works to identify the Russian antagonist as the enemy, and James Bond as the American hero. This is a great example of a film that adequately represents the current ideologies of society during this time (The Cold war lasted from 1947-1991).
A German film theorist named Siegfried Kracauer, once said that “films are the mirror of the prevailing society” . With that being said, it’s important to understand the relationship between our country’s state of peace and our culture. In an article written by Thomas Riegler called, “Mirroring Terror”:The Impact of 9/11 on Hollywood Cinema,” he talks about how immediately after 9/11 Hollywood cinema no longer produced any movies about mass destruction. This was due to the mourning and the overwhelming shock that was felt across the country at the time. Believe it or not, many films like the first Spiderman where either postponed or canceled because they contained scenes of New York City and the Twin Towers.
However, after the United States invaded Afghanistan on October 7th, 2001, there began to be an enormous increase in military themed movies. Shortly after 9/11 there were many war movies that were produced, but directors made sure to stay away from portraying middle eastern characters as the villains. The purpose of this was to keep all current war affairs separate from entertainment outlets in order to keep Americans from being frightened. 2001 films such as Black Hawk Down, Behind Enemy Lines, and Die Hard are just a few examples of war films that purposely had antagonist that were of a different ethnicity. It wasn’t until about 2006 when there began to be a notable rise in Middle Eastern villains within Hollywood cinema.