Hollywood’s Spin on America

 I’m no Methuselah, but I can still remember a time when Hollywood was unapologetically pro-America. From conveying our ideologies and ingenuity to the integrity of our armed forces, the motion picture industry once served as a proud ambassador for the land it calls home. Oliver Stone? Michael Moore? Granted, but they felt like the exception. Now they appear to be the rule.

What happened? Why are filmmakers less likely to wave Old Glory? Why do they shy away from depicting America as the world’s hero?

Maybe it’s the burgeoning overseas box office. Perhaps studios are worried that foreign audiences will reject action movies that feel like star-spangled propaganda. Or it could have more to do with changing attitudes and agendas within Tinseltown itself. Truth be told, it’s probably some combination of the two.

This reality came home to me again recently when I saw the zombie actioner World War Z. In it Brad Pitt plays a heroic American, but the movie hedges by having him represent the United Nations rather than the red, white and blue. Then, after America’s “best hope” stumbles badly, it’s up to Pitt and the world community to rally together and combat the epidemic. There’s nothing wrong with such internationalism, but it’s the latest evidence of a disappointing trend—Hollywood’s reluctance to prop up the U.S.A. in a more noble, chivalrous light.

“In some ways the most obvious example is the biggest movie at the box office of all time, that being Avatar,” my colleague Adam Holz explained on this week’s Official Plugged In Podcast. “It’s impossible to sit through Avatar and see it as anything other than a critique of imperialism, of warlike attitudes, of arrogance, of disregard for other places … and we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, yeah, America is just this big rampaging bully that goes other places and destroys people, and forests, and everything else. I was really turned off by it, but the fact that it made so much money would suggest that there’s a market for it.”

Fortunately, the majority of that podcast conversation (#209) focused on wonderful patriotic movies that warm our hearts and fill us with national pride. They’re out there. Sports movies. War movies. Old movies. With that in mind, which films make you proud to be an American? And what do you think about the overall image of the United States being exported to theaters all around the world?

As promised, here are the answers to yesterday’s July 4th trivia challenge. If you haven’t already done so, consider taking our Patriotic Pop Quiz: 1. The Patriot; 2. American Gladiators; 3. Born in the U.S.A.; 4. Captain America; 5. Fievel; 6. Katy Perry; 7. Apollo 13; 8. Lee Greenwood; 9. Stephen Colbert; 10. Yankee Doodle Dandy; 11. Whitney Houston; 12. Patton; 13. “American Pie”; 14. America’s Army; 15. Rocky IV; 16. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; 17. Will Smith; 18. Neil Diamond; 19. Saving Private Ryan; 20. Lake Placid, N.Y.