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Hollywood’s contribution to world peace: Kick ass while chewing bubblegum

John Wight
John Wight
John Wight has written for a variety of newspapers and websites, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal.
Hollywood’s contribution to world peace: Kick ass while chewing bubblegum
In his movies, Hollywood’s Gerry Butler spends his time kicking ass and chewing bubblegum, as he sets about single-handedly killing America’s enemies.

The Scottish movie star’s latest offering to the God of US exceptionalism is Angel Has Fallen. It is the third instalment in his ‘Has Fallen’ action series. In it, he reprises the role of Mike Banning, a former US Army Ranger who now works as a protective detail agent for the Secret Service, charged with protecting the president – played in the movie by Morgan Freeman. An attempt on his boss’ life is pinned on Butler and those dastardly Russians (is there any other kind?), on the back of which ensues two hours of crash bang wallop.

Just in passing, you may recall that Morgan Freeman featured in a horrendous video in 2017 in which he declared, “We are at war with Russia.”

Fortunately for us, Mr. Freeman has not at the time of writing voiced any intention of swapping movie world politics for the real thing. However, if that changes, I’ll be sure to let you know – just so you’ve got plenty of time in which to book yourself a place at your local nuclear shelter.

Back to Gerry Butler and previously, in ‘London Has Fallen’, his character went on a veritable killing spree of Pakistani terrorists; in fact, so many in one movie that the country must have suffered a sudden and severe case of depopulation. Meanwhile, in the very first movie of the series, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, it was those pesky North Koreans whose asses he was kicking.

In between, Butler managed to find the time to reverse a coup in Russia that briefly succeeded in toppling the country’s president. This, in his 2018 movie ‘Hunter Killer’, in which he plays maverick submarine skipper Joe Glass.

Departing from the norm in this particular movie, it features a Russian character depicted sympathetically (played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist), though of course subordinate to his American counterpart. Butler rescues the Russian captain after the latter’s vessel is sabotaged by – yep, you guessed it – more dastardly Russians.

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Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against Gerry Butler. On the contrary, I met him once in person and found him to be friendly and personable. There we were, two fellow Scots in LA – me, a doorman in a swanky hotel bar on Sunset Boulevard, popular at the time with celebrities; he, an up-and-coming movie star in town for a series of auditions. I even bought him a drink, I recall, though notably he didn’t return the favour.

That said, I shouldn’t have been surprised, not when Butler hails from Paisley, a town in the west of Scotland whose people are known for being tighter than two coats of paint when it comes to spending money. Hey, I’m just saying.

Anyway, that was back in 2000, six years before his breakout role as King Leonidas in the movie ‘300’, a dramatized retelling of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae – inspired not by the historical event but by the comic book series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

I have vivid memories of going to see this movie in London and walking halfway through, disenchanted if not disgusted at how such a blatant piece of anti-Iranian propaganda could possibly fly with audiences. But then, the movie-going audience in the West has over time had its collective worldview shaped and poisoned by Hollywood and the propaganda it churns out week in and week out, dressed up as entertainment.

For someone like me, brought up in Scotland on a cultural diet of this tripe, it was impossible not to internalise the idea that America really was the land of the free and the land of opportunity. And also to believe that countries such as Russia and China and Iran were fated to exist in John Wayne’s shadow, inferior cultures whose people were just, well, backward.

It really is that pernicious.

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Luckily for me, I woke up, which really isn’t such a hard thing to do if you spend any amount of time in the US, Hollywood especially. Because there you encounter a reality that’s about as divorced from the myth as you could conceivably imagine.

Instead of finding streets paved with gold and movie stars, you find them paved with homelessness, mental illness, desperation and human despair of epic proportion.

As for Hollywood the industry, it has long been guilty of keeping the American people swimming in a sea of false consciousness. This it has and continues to do when it comes to the world and America’s self-proclaimed place in it as the one indispensable nation.

In this it has proved eminently effective as a locus of soft power, driving home the entirely false idea that US cultural values are universal values, and as such values that the entire world should aspire to live by.

In movie after movie, we are bombarded with the exaltation of war and violence as the arbiter of global affairs, and with the invincibility of America when it comes to waging war, something it only ever does in the name of freedom and democracy.

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The cognitive dissonance such a dynamic has sown within US public consciousness was never more evident than immediately after the terrorist atrocity of 9/11.

The facile narrative of ‘they hate our freedoms’, deployed to simplistically explain the motives of those responsible, was crucial to the disaster that followed, when Bush and the clutch of neocon fanatics in his administration embarked on a kamikaze course, the consequences of which we are still living with.

Hollywood has much to answer for in demonizing and dehumanizing entire peoples, conditioning the American people to believe that waging war against the uncivilized and inscrutable ‘other’ is a natural and even noble endeavour, instead of the breakdown in humanity and impediment to progress that it is in truth.

In his 1979 critique of the classic Vietnam War movie ‘The Deer Hunter’, Peter Biskind powerfully laments the way that the film’s “popularity and warm reception by the critics indicates a failure to consolidate whatever progress was made in the 60s toward confronting the underside of our [American] national life.” He concludes, “The Deer Hunter resolutely turns its face from the lessons of Vietnam and marches backwards into the heart of darkness.”

In the heart of darkness is where Hollywood’s output, with few exceptions, continues to languish today.

As for Gerry Butler, the guy still owes me a drink. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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