I’m a little late posting this thought. It’s been with me for a few weeks, ever since the news reports started appearing on Americans’ lack of interest in Iraq themed movies.
Some say that’s because Americans are so upbeat about the war’s progress that any whiff of criticism doesn’t resonate. Others seem to gloat about how patriotic Americans are snubbing the anti-mainstream, un-patriotic Hollywood depiction of a military behaving badly.
Pesonally, most of these movies I am not the least bit inclined to see, but not for a lack of interest in the theme but because they got bad reviews. However, “Stop Loss” received mostly good ones and it’s on my list for when it is out on DVD or On Demand. I can’t bear the ads and trailers at the Cineplex so tend to stick to HD at home.
At the same time that Americans are rejecting the Iraq war movies, they are rejecting horror porn. Any connection?
In the mid to late 1940s, a new genre of cinema emerged in post-war Italy that would influence filmmakers from France to Japan. The neo-realists shot films that were so raw in their depiction of the poverty and hard scrabble lives of society’s powerless that few people could bear to watch. After WWII, upbeat American musicals made them feel better. And how could it have been any different?
Hollywood’s body of work on Iraq is at this point far from the art and achievement of the neo-realists. But maybe the phenomenon of audiences staying away is the same. Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter — those are the winners at the box office today. No gore, all fantasy.
I wonder if there is something else going on. If there is any morality in this world, it would provide us with a collective guilt for sending so many to their deaths for no apparent good reason and with virtually no sacrifice of our own (yet). God forbid we should want to be reminded about that at the movies.
(Painting: Goya’s Saturn)
Walking in downtown Seattle last week as people streamed to a Mariners game, I wondered whether the revival of baseball in the last several years represents the same recourse to fantasy and rejection of an external world we know to be true but prefer not to face. Walk by any ballpark, from Major League to Little League, and you will see a space lovingly tended, the baselines meticulously laid and infield raked like a Zen Garden. As my companion in Seattle pointed out, the centerpiece of baseball is about “coming home.” This seems to be what many in the country want — from the war in Iraq to their own lives — and as usual the subconscious is way ahead of our conscious selves.
Thanks, Ted. Nice point. Baseball is so quintessentially American that maybe “coming home” is metaphorically meaningful several layers deep.