The Hollywood Ideology

Image: Elyeser Szturm


There are critics who exaggerate by claiming that all Hollywood cinematography is right-wing. But if we start counting on our fingers, it won't seem like such an exaggeration anymore.

King Kong perches on the Empire State Building, kidnapping the blonde and slashing planes with the gauntlets: the pop imaginary produces an allegory of Western civilization. An irrational colossus, black and hairy – erupting from the sphere of instincts, from the dark side of each one and from beings that do not excel in whiteness – escapes the control of civilized people, taking over the white female and the skyscraper. This, prior to World Trade Center, was for decades the tallest in the world, a brand of modernity in the USA.

The intensification of consumerism that took place in the interval between the two versions of the film accounts for the gigantic growth of the monster, which tripled in size. Magnified and unleashed desires: the consumer society is based on the piquet of appetites. It was not for nothing that they called New York the Big Apple, an invitation to gluttony. Hovers the haunting of something threatening and irreducible, which you don't know when or where it can appear and attack, putting at risk the very seat of capitalist power on the planet.

The desecration of symbolic objects like this building is old in the pop imagination, a gesture that with extreme conciseness releases a world of affections and impulses. Such objects enjoy universal authority, and when the seditious people of Tiananmen Square wanted to tell the world what they wanted, they fashioned a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Films and books are dedicated to outrage the main monuments of the country. of the various the planet of the apes, one ended with the Statue of Liberty in shrapnel; another, in the final scene, endows the marble Lincoln in Washington with an ape-like head.

In other works, the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol and the twin towers of the World Trade Center. These appear in the back, as a backdrop, in all types of visual production, in subliminal insinuation, a key piece that is part of the skyline most celebrated city in the world, as integral to the American identity as the Torre Eiffel à la française. Metamorphosed into a funeral pyre, one can assess the mourning of this mutilation.

The symptoms suggest that, due to some residue leaking into the imagination, the United States suspects that its actions encourage revanchism and expose them to revenge. Annihilation daydreams seem to inhabit the core of the world we live in, and they flourish in fictional works. The attribution of authorship of the rematch is so banal and irresponsible that even an unpretentious comedy that has nothing to do with politics like The last man on planet Earth (The Last Man on Planet Earth, 1999) calmly credits the extermination of males to the initiative… whose? From the Afghans, who started a bacteriological war, which the United States fought back with a virus bomb that destroyed the Y chromosome and, with it, all males.

The end of the Cold War, by liquidating the comfortable division of the planet between two empires, forced adaptations and experiments. Half a century of Soviet enemies in bestseller, in cinema, TV series, advertising, comics and video games, was condemned to obsolescence, imposing the research of others. It had ceased to be politically correct to make black people caricatures or villains since the achievements of the civil rights movement. The redskins trod a grueling path, until they turned from executioners into victims.

Where to find the new bad guys? These became non-whites, or less whites, such as Latin Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Serbs and other Balkans, but above all Muslims of unknown nationality, indiscriminately referred to as “Arabs” (which make up only 15% of the 1 billion and one hundred million adherents of Islam). On the other hand, the expectation of war between the two empires would be replaced by a considerable increase in terrorism plots.

The metaphor of the explosion, correlated with the phantasmagoria of revenge, stands as the contemporary manifestation of the Prometheus syndrome, which has in Frankenstein the first typical monster of industrial society. Man not only stole fire from the gods, but also knew how to devise ever more formidable uses for it, expanding the horizon of destruction, to the point of manufacturing a weapon that could annihilate all and any life on Earth.

Taking it to the gods, he condemns himself to await punishment for his impious conduct. The metaphor of the explosion is verified both in books, where it appears in the mode of description, and in television and films; but it is in these that fire predominates with bang and disintegration, thanks to the performance that audiovisual vehicles allow. The detonations, spectacular, are a constituent part of the “special effects”, infallible in the most common action films, those of car chases.

The pyrotechnics of the Gulf War – the first, in 1990 – marked a rupture in the coverage of these events on television, which began to aestheticize the conflagration, focusing on the glare of the missiles flaming in the black of the night and never showing the damage they cause to the human beings: a warlike confrontation resolved in a spectacle, as if it were virtual, or a video game, without blood and without suffering. The Gulf War did not exceed the figure of fifty casualties on the American side. The touted "surgical" bombings directed exclusively at military targets killed XNUMX Iraqi civilians.

For a long time now, the imaginary expressed in fiction has been examining the various possibilities of an attack like the one that took place on September 11, 2001. best sellers, Tom Clancy's specialized in military and weapons technology. They are somewhat bulky and boring, as the adventures are replaced by the hidden charms – to which certain readers are blind – of a thermonuclear missile or an aircraft carrier, and their operating mechanisms, in which the author displays erudition. His first big success, which established his reputation in the genre, was Red October Hunt, account of the duel between two submarines, one American and the other Soviet, later filmed with Sean Connery as the protagonist.

Many best sellers later, and millions of copies sold, he wrote debt of honor, in which, at the end of nearly a thousand pages, the Japanese commander of a commercial 747 for Japan Airlines, avenging the deaths of his only son, a fighter pilot, and his brother admiral, both killed that same day in the initial skirmish of World War III , shoots his plane against the Capitol in Washington, during a session with the president's visit, with no survivors left.

The book is not so recent anymore, dating from 1994: would it have been read elsewhere? It is common knowledge that these books, films, television series and video games teach, down to the smallest detail, the techniques used by terrorism. The fact that the villains are not Arabs shows that this one is less current. A very complicated plot, full of suspense, unfolds, including Japanese financial conspiracies to dominate the stock exchanges, reviving old resentments that go back to the Second World War. These are allied with new resentments, leading to a “triple entente” between Japan, China and India, whose peoples are not the whitest, which for different reasons unite against, who would say, Western civilization.

A seasoned author of best sellers of espionage, by the way of the best ones, John le Carré wrote our game (1995), post-Cold War, in which the salvation of civilization, no longer within reach of this type of society we live in, lies in Islamic, pre-capitalist and primitive minorities, entrenched in the Caucasus mountains, in the heart of Russia. Standing on the sidelines of economic development, uninterested in wealth and material goods, they became a repository of values ​​such as honor, loyalty and solidarity with the destinies of men.

These minorities are doomed to failure, as they have no voice against Western power; and every time they rise up they will be massacred. But the best in this world ally with them. And it is precisely two spies, one Englishman and the other from the Russian KGB, who forge an alliance – counting on the know-how of both and their bodies – designed to steal a fortune from the lost funds of the former Soviet Union now appropriated by private enterprise, to finance an uprising of the brave little people.

But keep in mind that the new type of terrorism movie has nothing to do with science fiction, although one can see its origins there. These are political films, only from the right. There are even critics who exaggerate, claiming that all of Hollywood's cinematography is right-wing. But if we start counting on our fingers, it won't seem like such an exaggeration anymore. There are honorable exceptions, like directors Oliver Stone and Warren Beatty, but most of the films are pure self-propaganda, steeped in xenophobia.

For those who are curious to see how the ethnic features intertwined with the pastime serve racial supremacy, take as an example, among others thrillers, the series that has been shown on TV for years, La femme Nikita, where the bad guys are always outsiders, while the heroine, a Section I agent, is blonde with blue eyes. Much of the strength of the images lies in exploring the insinuating glances exchanged between three pairs of blue eyes, those of Nikita, her partner Michael and their boss. Like a thousand other series, it features enemies who are terrorists and carry out attacks against the West.

Something similar happens in action films that compete for the title of box office champions and unfold in sequels, such is their success. MISSIONimpossible, with Tom Cruise as a CIA agent, which is already in the third, had in its second edition the highest Brazilian box office of the year 2000. Mad Max, with Mel Gibson as a police officer, ditto, while Deadly machine, with the same actor as another police officer, as well as indiana jones, with Harrison Ford, they're already in the room.

Villains are always exotic. In the James Bond novels and films, with the Sean Connery of the first batch, the opponent was named with German-Jewish resonances (Blofeld in one, Goldfinger in another) or Chinese (Dr. No). But things have changed and, with them, nationalities. It is even surprising that in one of the Deadly machine the bandits are blond, blue-eyed South Africans. Just like the eyes of Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson are blue.

The films we are dealing with here offer some variants. In terrorist threat (1999), a Serbian general, accused of war crimes against Bosnia, is kidnapped by an American commando in Bucharest. Retaliating, Serb terrorists storm the American embassy, ​​capturing hostages and killing several of them while the demand is not accepted. A little more complex, terrorist hunt (2001) narrates how an Israeli undercover agent receives orders from the Mossad to kill a top Palestinian terrorist. His mission, it later turns out, is to assassinate the leader of the PLO, on the occasion of the solemn signing of the peace agreement with Israel. He is thwarted by the Israeli, and ends up shot dead by the Arabs of the PLO.

One example among many: Critical moment (1996) is no big deal, it's a disaster movie like so many others. Except that the plane hijackers are Arabs, have an Arab phenotype and speak Arabic all the time. During the flight, they demand the release of their imprisoned leader, the price demanded for not blowing up the plane with the bomb at their disposal. It is clear that they break their word and, after releasing their leader, they continue the flight to shoot the plane over the Pentagon, in which they are thwarted by the action of some brave American soldiers.

another is Air Force One (1997), in which the presidential plane is hijacked by Russians who insist on remaining communists. The United States had just carried out a clandestine operation in Kazakhstan, arresting General Radek, head of the government, and handing him over to the Russians: yet another of its usual interferences in a foreign country. The kidnappers want Radek released, and they already have one of their infiltrators on board. A high point is the reply of one of the terrorists, who, admonished for killing innocents, retorts: “And you, who killed a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, just because of a few cents more in each barrel of oil?”. However, the president, opportunely played by Harrison Ford in another of the feats he has become accustomed to as Indiana Jones, will manage to dominate all terrorists alone.

one more is the great attack (1997), in which an FBI agent investigates an Arab religious sect, home to suspects in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, which killed six people and injured more than a hundred.

15 minutes ( 15 minutes, 2001) is interesting for its critical notes. Two psychopaths, veterans in crime, a Russian and a Czech, completely dazzled, land in New York determined to “make America”. They commit crimes and film themselves while executing them, until they manage to torture and murder the most important policeman in the city. Life is done: they sell the film to a TV show for a million dollars. Good connoisseurs, through cinema and television, of the functioning of the American system, when one of them is arrested, he claims insanity and is innocent. That they end up shot down by the police does not invalidate their feats. The last image from the amateur film they made is the Statue of Liberty.

Due to its originality, it deserves a closer examination. besieged new york (1998). Claiming the release of their religious leader arrested by the Americans, groups of Arabs immolate themselves in several attacks in the city. The president declares a state of war and the army occupies New York. More than rare is the appearance on the screen of an American general in uniform torturing and killing a suspect, even more so in New York. Concentration camps for Arabs are set up, visible behind the fences.

The heroes turn out to be the FBI and the CIA, against the Army, and it is still ludicrous to see them transformed into champions of civil rights. The attacks, all carried out by suicide bombers wrapped with dynamite cartridges, target a crowded bus, downtown, and a Broadway theater in full swing. The last one, planned but frustrated, intends to infiltrate a multiethnic demonstration against the persecution of Arabs, joined by Jews, blacks and white Americans, outside the city hall. An intriguing detail is that, after much shenanigans, the CIA agent lets slip the origin of the terrorists: they belonged to a tribe in southern Iraq whom the CIA had taught to make bombs and carry out attacks against Saddam Hussein. Then, changing policy, the CIA abandoned its allies, who were massacred. In revenge, the few that remain will lay waste to New York.

Now that we pay more attention to what we missed before, we see how much of what happened had already been predicted in novels, movies, TV series and even video games. It is not about premonition: only, with the same data, it would be possible to make arrangements and combinations that would seem to be only of the order of fantasy. This has always been the prerogative of fiction, which is not only dedicated to what happened, but also to the virtualities of reality, that is, to what could happen.

One of them, Sui generis, turns out to be an intelligent (and rare) political film, offering a true lesson in public manipulation. Mere coincidence (Wag the dog, 1997) is a comedy, and laughter disarms, or makes cynical, the systematic denigration of democratic institutions. The president, 15 days before re-election, is denounced by a Girl Scout for having raped her in the White House. His advice summons a specialist in disaster damage containment, who recommends a war, exemplifying the invasion of Grenada in 1983, 24 hours after the dynamiting of the American military base in Beirut. They decide on Albania, because of its advantages: it doesn't have a nuclear bomb, it's Muslim, it's extremely poor, nobody knows where it is. They enlist a Hollywood producer and devote themselves to a virtual war, created by computers, that goes on the news.

They construct the emblematic image of that war, a girl wearing a scarf on her head fleeing with a kitten in her arms. They invent a hero, an American soldier named Schumann, who would have been imprisoned. Deciphering the holes in the front of her sweater in Morse code results in: "Courage, Mom." They set up a civic ritual based on a pun on their name (shoe-man), consisting of throwing pairs of shoes tied by their laces over trees and poles.

The audience responds, spreading the ritual. After all, the producer almost loses everything by insisting on telling the story, because, he says, if others don't know, what's the point? And, predictably, he is murdered by the team, who fake an (yet another) accident. The rapist president is re-elected by an avalanche of votes. In Albania, a group claims the false attacks. And a real war begins, when the film ends.

Would still be worth watching enemy attack (1998) terrorist hunt (1997), which narrates how Carlos the Jackal was caught, The Great Attack1997) etc. As we have seen, terrorism practiced by foreigners, preferably Arabs, is common in literary and cinematographic fiction. But there is a taboo subject: there are few who dare to deal with internal terrorism, whose authors are American citizens in the United States, a phenomenon that has also intensified in recent years. Terrorism is something practiced in other people's countries under the label of "defence of civilization" - coups, subversion, assassinations, illegal bombings, kidnappings.

Outside of fiction, there are books for those interested. There were several, provoked by the execution of Timothy McVeigh, author of the attack in Oklahoma, including american terrorist, by Lou Michel and Don Heckner (2000). And there were two about Osama Bin Laden in 1999, shortly after the destruction of two US embassies in Africa, which were attributed to him. Written by terrorism scholars, they are entitled The new jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden and the future of terrorism, by the English journalist Simon Reeve, and Bin Laden – The man who declared war on America, by Yossef Bodansky. But they were not very successful and, by all indications, were little read.

The oscillation between forgetting and remembering, in all these cases, can be complicated. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden – not to mention the Shah of Persia, Mobutu, Sukarno and Suharto, Duvalier, Batista, Pinochet, hundreds of other bloodthirsty dictators that the Americans promoted and supported – are, as is well known, , creations of the United States, which raised, armed and trained them, Frankensteins or King Kongs that escaped the control of their creator.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH-USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc / Gold over blue).

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