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‘Olympus Has Fallen’ And America’s Enemies

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"‘Olympus Has Fallen’ And America’s Enemies"

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First, a huge thanks to Alan Pyke, Sharmin Kent, and Betsy Phillips for filling in while I was at Sundance, with help from Zack Beauchamp and Travis Waldron. I’m incredibly grateful for their help, and I hear you gave them a great time.

It makes a certain amount of sense to me that, given the vitriol directed at President Obama, that some insecurities about presidential safety would come out in Hollywood products, the first of which, Olympus Has Fallen, has released its initial trailer:

What’s most interesting to me is not so much that the presidency is portrayed as under attack, or the psychological struggles of Gerard Butler (for that, I recommend Ralph Fiennes’ adaptation of Coriolanus, in which Butler is tremendous, as is everyone else), but who’s doing the attacking. Initially, the movie throws out images of mujahideen-like attackers wielding rocket launchers, only to transition to Washington, DC-born actor Rick Yune playing some kind of sinister and powerful if as-yet-nationally-unaffiliated foreigner who hired them. My bet was that he ends up being North Korean or from some other not-particularly-powerful Asian country that Americans don’t actually feel any geopolitical anxiety about, though, as with the North Koreans in Red Dawn, he’ll be standing in for our worries about an emergent China, or something.

I understand why pop culture wants to play with American worries about our place in the world, why a movie would show the consequences of our actions blowing back on us, why Homeland throws out the specter of symbols like Hezbollah and al Qaeda hooking up, despite the geopolitical realities that divide those groups. But it would be nice if we could deal with those anxieties in a way that reflect reality. The White House doesn’t always have to blow up for us to acknowledge that we’re worried about our place in the world.

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