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Monday, July 16, 2007

America doesn't have a state religion, but if you look at American movies, there are certain things that are taken on faith. The little guy is right; the empire is wrong. The ragtag band will triumph against the powerful, disciplined army.

I wonder if that has boomeranged at all against the US? These days it's the US with the powerful, well-disciplined army, and our enemies are ragtag bands. I wonder how many jihadis have worn out their copy of STAR WARS waving around imaginary light sabers while killing American storm troopers in their minds.

(I read in Walter Murch's book that George Lucas actually meant STAR WARS as an allegory of the North Vietnamese fighting American hegemony. Of course, I'm no cheerleader for the NVA; they were fighting for their freedom to order their own people around. But they probably didn't see it that way; and I guess neither did George.)

It is interesting that Americans identify with the underdog, though the US is the most powerful nation in history. I'm not sure it's ideological, really, in spite of our origins in ragtag rebellion against what was well on its way to being the most powerful nation in history at the time. It's probably more inherent in the movie medium that heroes facing armies alone "always works."

On the other hand, take a look at movies of the '40's, or even BAND OF BROTHERS, for heroes doing their duty and following orders. So loners aren't the only heroes.

These days I can't help taking the question at the end of the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner seriously. Home of the brave, no doubt. But land of the free? I worry.

At least Hollywood continues to glorify the dissenter, fortifying the Daniel Ellsbergs and Seymour Hershes of the world in their battles against those who would turn the Land of the Free into the Evil Empire for real. That's what stories are for: to tell us how to be. Without these stories, we probably would all be "just following orders."

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2 Comments:

Why do you think Hollywood isn't really part of America? ;b

Seriously, though, I've been doing a little research on freedom myself. Except for rational anarchists who truly try to follow justice and freedom in their most fundamental form, history in Europe and the US since the Renaissance really has been about people fighting for the freedom to order other people around and calling it rationality. It truly makes me sick, especially considering when the US forefathers and the Enlightenment scholars had their own prejudices against non-white non-males. . ..

By Blogger The_Lex, at 9:23 PM  

And as coincidences go, I had a very similar thought process as I was walking by Wrigley Field at around 6 PMish when the singer sang the National Anthem. Very unnerving.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 9:37 PM  

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