Why is war glorified in mainstream films

The influence of the military and politics on the US film industry

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Military aid for films
2.1 Requirement or not?
2.2 Actors in military training

3. Films as "recruiting measures"

4. The US film at war
4.1 First World War
4.2 World War II
4.3 The Cold War
4.4 The trauma of Vietnam
4.5 The war on terror

5. Current development

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

8. Filmography

1 Introduction

US patriotism and self-glorification are extremely noticeable in some Hollywood films. This applies to both war films and works of other genres. One can assume that the cause of those productions is more than just the opinion of the authors, directors or producers. So why are many mainstream American films so one-sided in this regard? The first answer is simple: the government, especially the Ministry of Defense, influences the film industry.

Within the analytical methods in media studies, production analysis examines films to see how they came about as such and what actual ideas are behind them. This is to be followed up here. The aim of this work is to uncover the background of American patriotism in films and to explain to what extent the US government exerts influence on films and with what motivation it does so.

The first part explains how the Pentagon decides which films are required. Then an example is given of what military aid can look like on the film set. The second part refers to the Pentagon for this. The following section is a historical outline of the subject. He deals with the origins and history of the relationship between politics and film in the USA. Using selected wars and conflicts with the participation of the country, the forms of American propaganda during these times will be presented. The Second World War in particular is of greater importance here. This is followed by a description of the current situation and finally a conclusion.

2. Military aid for films

Elaborately produced films that want to work with military equipment therefore cost a lot of money. The Pentagon can provide a remedy in such a case.

The following section shows how films can get support from the Pentagon and how this can be felt.

2.1 Requirement or not?

If Hollywood studios want to receive subsidies from the US military for their productions, they only have to adhere to the rule that their film is acceptable to those responsible in the Pentagon (cf. Voigt, 2005, p. 41).

To do this, the studios have to hand over the respective scriptwriters in five copies to the Hollywood watchdog of the Ministry of Defense. One copy each goes to the commanders of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and the elite unit of the "Marines". Their experts then make "suggestions" for changes to the film script. All scenes with cursing, racist, lack of courage or even "losing" US soldiers are deleted (Schroeder, 2005).

For example, the auditors did not like the script submitted to them for the James Bond part "Golden Eye", since the film was supposed to portray a US admiral as a betrayer of secrets, who was then rewritten as a Frenchman at the request of the Pentagon (cf. Schroeder , 2005). The Pentagon also demands the presence of its advisors during the shooting, who are in fact watchdogs (cf. Schroeder, 2005). Major David Georgi, who has been employed as an advisor to numerous productions by the Ministry, admits: "If the film people don't stick to our change requests, I'll take my toys away from them and go home" (quoted from Schroeder, 2005). Finally, before the film is released, a copy must be received by the military authorities so that they can carry out a final check (cf. Schroeder, 2005).

Schroeder also emphasizes that the Pentagon refuses to cooperate with most films after viewing the script, especially if the makers do not allow themselves to be negotiated about changes. For example, the demand by Forrest Gump was unacceptable to the military because the protagonist had a low IQ (Schroeder, 2005).

2.2 Actors in military training

The services that the Pentagon provides for the film request are not just paid for by money and material. The professionalism and authenticity of a film naturally also depends on the actors acting in it. The US Army offers quick basic training in the most important military skills so that they look like real masters of the trade.

This happened as one of many traps during the preparations for the film "Black Hawk Down", which made the US Somalia mission in the early 1990s the theme. Under professional guidance, the actors learned how to handle weapons, do domestic and hand-to-hand combat training or even troop singing, so that in the end the instructor compared the actors with real soldiers (cf. Burger, 2005, p. 256).

3. Films as a "recruiting measure"

For the Pentagon, the aim of the film demand is, in addition to the general patriotic glorification of the USA, to bring young people into the service of the armed forces (cf. Schroeder, 2005).

Military entertainment is an important part of a comprehensive advertising concept for the US armed forces. [...] For young people in the USA, however, since TOP GUN, the cinema has repeatedly offered incentives to deal with a professional future in the military (Burger, 2005, p. 253).

1986 Top Gun is known for its covert advertisement for the US Navy. Tom Cruise as a young fighter jet pilot, stationed on a sunny dream beach, makes the soldier's profession seem like a romantic adventure.

In recent years, multi-ethnic films have promoted the military and wanted to show that origin, despite all the difficulties that the US armed forces had with it, is not a problem for a socially respected career (cf. Burger, 2005, p. 253). "Men of Honor" from 2000 tells the story of an African American who, against all odds, becomes the first colored diver in the Navy and attains a high rank of non-commissioned officer. "Windtalkers" is about the Navajo Indians who were used as radio operators in World War II and who became indispensable because of their own language, which the enemy could not understand.

But also war and military films from the time immediately after the Second World War up to the 1970s advertised military service. Voigt notes that there was a kind of manliness demonstrated to the audience that is apparently only taught in the army. In fact, the result was that more young men volunteered for the army to emulate models like John Wayne (Voigt, 2005, p. 47).

4. The US film at war

The medium of film always played an extremely important role for propaganda purposes in the USA during wartime.

The film camera is also able to change and falsify the dimension. [...] Films are not only one instrument of war propaganda among others, but under certain circumstances they can even become decisive in the war, because they target people's thoughts and feelings, the “hearts” of people. As a rule, they convey a sense of togetherness [...] (Voigt, 2005, p. 23).

The focus of the politicians, military and filmmakers was just as much on the motivation of the troops as on that of the civilian population. A look back at past wars and conflicts shows that special propaganda posts were set up which conveyed the events from an American point of view to the citizens (cf. Voigt, 2005, p.36). The own troops were of course glorified, while the enemy was characterized negatively and represented by stereotypes (cf. Voigt, 2005, p. 33). Voigt sums it up (2005, p. 25): "Films have become weapons in the media war over the 'truth', the 'good' and the 'just'."


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