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Hey Conservatives, Hollywood Knows Patriotism Sells

By Alyssa Rosenberg on January 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

"Hey Conservatives, Hollywood Knows Patriotism Sells"

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This is a standard, but silly, argument from Big Hollywood about how the entertainment industry hates the troops:

But patriotism doesn’t sell, right? If it did, Hollywood would be inundating movie theaters with pro-troop films and other tales of American soldiers in heroic action.
“Red Tails” also slices into another depressing Hollywood meme…An even better patriotism test comes next month when “Act of Valor,” a film which boldly toasts American soldiers as heroes, hits theaters. A “Valor” take down of the film competition may open the floodgates for more pro-troop features, assuming the appropriate bean counters are taking notes. Or, will Hollywood executives ignore the numbers and retreat to projects depicting U.S. soldiers in unflattering light? Is there a better chance we’ll see a new installment of “In the Valley of Elah” or “Redacted,” films showing the darker side of the modern soldier, than a “Red Tails” sequel?

I don’t want to spend time explaining why patriotism and unqualified support for the members and actions of the armed forces no matter what they do aren’t the same thing, because I think it’s obvious to everyone here and everyone reasonable why that’s the case. But I think there’s something fundamentally silly about the idea that Hollywood is unaware of the fact that patriotism sells.

In the last 10 years, the following movies with patriotic themes were among the top-10 grossing movies of the year. Last year, one of the top-selling superheroes of the year was Captain America, up there with Pixar’s most middle-American offering, Cars 2. In 2010, Iron Man 2 kept stumbling drunkenly towards public service. 2009 was ruled by Michael Bay’s military Valentine, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, along with the paen to charity and football as mainstreaming experiences, The Blind Side. In 2008, Tony Stark discovered service of country instead of himself in Iron Man. In 2007, Spider-Man 3, the latest installment about the webslinger who became a representative of post-9/11 New York, topped the box office list; the uber-pro-military franchise Transformers made its bow; Jason Bourne kept the idea of an intelligence community with integrity alive in The Bourne Ultimatum; and Will Smith saved human society in I Am Legend. The previous year, Clark Kent resurfaced to keep an eye on Metropolis in Superman Returns, and Hollywood affirmed a kinder, gentler American consumerism in Talladega Nights. 2005 had less obvious themes, though America obviously beats the Martians in War of the Worlds. 2004 reinforced Spider-Man’s ties to New York in that incredible subway scene. 2002 had Spider-Man topping the charts again, a celebration of the immigrant experience in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and more Americans v. the Aliens in Men in Black 2. 2001 was the last year a World War II movie cleaned up at the box office, but no one could accuse Pearl Harbor of being anything less than a big, old-fashioned patriotic weepie.

Even by the standards of military-worshipping conservatism, Hollywood is deeply committed to making movies that both reflect and make bank off that particular strand of patriotism. And if you’re thoughtful enough to have a broader understanding of love and country, there’s even more out there for you.

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