Novelist Andrew Klavan wrote an op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times calling for Hollywood to go back to making the movies that helped win the Second World War:
We need films like those that were made during World War II, films such as 1943's "Sahara" and "Action in the North Atlantic," or "The Fighting Seabees" and "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," which were released in 1944.
Not all of these were great films, or even good ones, but their patriotic tributes to our fighting forces inspired the nation.
More than that, they reminded the country what exactly it was that those forces were fighting to defend. Though many of these pictures now seem almost hilariously free with racist tirades against "sauerkrauts," and "eyeties" and "Tojo and his bug-eyed monkeys," they were also carefully constructed to display American life at its open-minded and inclusive best.
Every roll call of Hollywood's U.S. troops seems to include a Ragazzi and a Donovan, a Hellenopolis, a Novasky, and a wisecracking Roth. "Sahara" even throws in the black "Mohammedan" Tabul, a Sudanese ally. This may have been corny, but it was also more or less realistic, and it depicted the war as a conflict between our lovably mongrel melting pot and the despicable Axis ideal of racial purity.
There are several flaws in Klavan’s call for Hollywood to forget everything from Strangelove to Syriana and reconnect with its inner John Wayne.
World War II was all-out war, where the U.S. didn’t care much about what foreign populations thought of it. If the U.S. had to kill every German between its armies and Berlin and every Japanese between its navy and Tokyo, it was perfectly prepared to do that while propagandizing about “krauts” and “Japs” the whole way.
Today’s case, the administration’s global war on terror, is more subtle, the enemy harder to find, the allies unconvinced of U.S. rightness and pretty sure America is overreacting. Today’s foe is Mao’s revolutionary fish swimming among the sea of the people, so one-dimensional, gung-ho war movies—Thirty Seconds over Mecca, anyone?—won’t fly.
In addition, foreign audiences didn’t see most of those movies about congenitally conniving Nazis and subhuman Japanese. Today they would, and sooner than later a Hollywood drumbeat about Our Noble War Against the Jihadists would backfire, not just in the Muslim world but among America’s less-than-enthusiastic Continental allies. These audiences would take such films as further proof of U.S. ham-handedness, no matter how hard Hollywood labored to keep the focus on Our Heroic Men and Women in Uniform.
(Thanks as always to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the initial item.)