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Movies are Movies

Like Dennis Dale and Patrick J. Ford, I enjoyed WALL-E. I’m also astonished by its bashing by conservatives as “propaganda”, which reminds me of other subversive animated films, like the pro-spinanch Popeye or the crude anti-puppetry message of Pinocchio, not to mention the way vertically-challenged people were portrayed in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Shame on Hollywood!

I recall that when I was studying film history sometime in the late twentieth-century, the four movies that were described by most critics as the film masterpieces of the century were German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s pro-Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will;  The Birth of a Nation (aka The Clansman), D. W. Griffith’s celebration of white supremacy and the KKK; The Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein’s communist revolutionary film; and Orson Welles’ anti-Establishment Citizen Kane. It wasn’t very difficult for most viewers of these films to separate between, say, their artistic value and superb direction and their political message.

In fact, there is a general tendency among pundits to exaggerate the political influence of the media, including films, on the general public. For example, the common wisdom is that certain television commercials or televised presidential debates had a huge impact of the outcome of political races. But such claims are based mostly on speculation and not on concrete evidence. And it’s important to remember that while the communist regimes had bombarded the citizens of the Eastern Bloc with a lot of political propaganda for close to five decades, the general impact of all of that on most Poles, Hungarians, etc. was negative. The French communist party has more members today than its counterpart in Poland.

Which brings me to the hysterical reactions to the Obama Cover of The New Yorker. I’m not sure whether it was funny or not, but the notion that it serves as anti-Obama propaganda is nonsense and reflects the notion that “I get it. But what about the idiots out there”? Even kids “get it”, which explains why despite the popularity of Superman and other flying film heroes, you don’t hear a lot about children, wearing Batman suits jumping from rooftops of tall buildings.

about the author

Leon Hadar is a foreign policy analyst, author, and contributing editor at TAC. He holds a Ph.D. from American University, and is the author of the books Quagmire: America in the Middle East and Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. He is geopolitical expert with RANE Network, a former Cato Institute research fellow, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and the National Interest.

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