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So This is What I Miss by Ignoring FOX News

March 9, 2006

I was searching the internet the other day, for abortion statistics or something like that, when I found myself at the FOX News website. It was just a couple of days after the Oscars, so the title of a Father Jonathan Morris editorial “An Open Letter to Hollywood” caught my eye. As I suspected, the piece jumped on the “Hollywood is out of touch with America” meme.

Morris wants to provide an alternative to the out-of-touch Academy Award bestowals.

That’s why I’m announcing today the first annual We the People awards. There’s only one criterion: whether audiences actually wanted to go see the movies. Revolutionary! Drum roll, please… the We the People (WTP) award winners for this year are:

— Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith: $380 million gross (1st place for the year), 1 nomination
— Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: $288 million (2nd place for the year), 1 nomination
— The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: $288 million (3rd place for the year), 3 nominations
— War of the Worlds: $234 million (4th place for the year), 3 nominations

Oh, look, I think I see a pattern. None of these movies glorifies homosexuality (“Brokeback,” “Capote”), squeezes in 182 expletives (“Crash”), bashes McCarthyism (“Good Night”) and America in general (“Syriana” — 2 nominations) or features subject matter unmentionable in this column (“Geisha,” “Transamerica” — 2 nominations). In a word, none of them is propaganda. Maybe that’s why we wanted to go see them.

Ok, let’s ignore the two obvious fallacies at work here:

  1. The spurious definition of merit/success based mainly upon money; in this case, gross box office receipts.
  2. The hilarious objections to the Academy’s choices. (What, is McCarthyism really off limits now?)

Let me address instead Morris’s statement, “In a word, none of them is propaganda.”

Au contraire! All of them are propaganda. Art is a form of communication. And if it is to be considered worthy of awards; what, and how effectively, it communicates is as important as its aesthetic merits. In the concerted attempt communicate artfully, the result is propaganda.

Let me take the examples in order.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith:

Now, I loved this movie. For sentimental reasons. But, to be honest, Sith falls one competent screenwriter short of being well-executed propaganda. Which is not to say it isn’t propaganda, but its poor execution may be why it was overlooked at awards time.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
I haven’t seen this movie, but there is plenty of evidence out there of Potter Propaganda.
Not the least compelling of which comes right from the book’s author JK Rowling: ‘Fire’ Storm Here Rowling actually tells us what message she is trying to send with this series. There is also plenty of propaganda in the eyes of Harry Potter’s beholders, too.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
Another one that I have not seen. (Maybe it’s me that’s out of touch with Hollywood.) But, apparently, “The Chronicles of Narnia contain many allusions to Christian ideas…” and “Some Christians see the chronicles as excellent tools for Christian evangelism.” —The Chronicles of Narnia – Christian parallels

War of the Worlds:
Ahh, yes. I am convinced that History will pinpoint the promotional period around the release of this movie as the precise moment Tom Cruise jumped the shark— or the couch, if you will.

Crazy people stuff notwithstanding, there were claims by the filmmakers of relevant current political themes, but it would prove difficult for critics to confirm the existence of said themes. However, themes dealing with [gasp!] evolution and technological supremacy, written into the original book by HG Wells would survive their trip through the Hollywood machine and make an appearance in the film.

Morris thought he saw a pattern. He saw a lack of propaganda. He was wrong. What he saw was two cases of poorly executed subversive propaganda, and two cases of less objectionable— at least in the eyes of a FOX commentator —propaganda.

Your Montag sees a pattern, too: These are all fantasies. Might their box office success have anything to do with a desire for escape? Escape from a world that can seem pretty ugly in human terms on a day-to-day basis? Escape from the very ugliness that the award winners attempt to paint?

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7 Comments
  1. March 9, 2006 3:43 AM

    Fantasies, right. Which is also why George W. Bush is so successful…

  2. March 9, 2006 7:06 PM

    You are absolutely correct; all good art is propaganda. Art should be a fascist endeavor–by the artist, for the artist. It is, therefore, the artist’s version of the world thrust upon the viewer as if it were truth. Sounds like propaganda to me.

    This was a great year for the Oscars, btw. It was the first time in years that all 5 of the Best Picture nominees had something important to say.

  3. March 9, 2006 7:15 PM

    Perfectly said, J.R. I wish I could have come up with that last night (after about five rewrites of one particular paragraph.)

  4. March 9, 2006 8:49 PM

    I can’t get past

    bashes McCarthyism

    .

    Must go bang my head into the wall now.

  5. March 9, 2006 8:50 PM

    I think I must have bashed my head before that last comment. Me like structure sentence the of.

  6. March 10, 2006 8:47 AM

    Maybe I hit my head, too, because your first comment made perfect sense to me. I just approached it like the brain-teaser where one is asked to punctuate something like this:

    that that is is that that isn’t isn’t

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