- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009


For the last several years, a staple of the Academy Awards has been a ritualized salute to our troops. However, any halfway decent movies about them have not been in evidence.

(Corrected paragraph:) Other than a handful of dreadful and commercially disastrous films telling us that U.S. servicemen suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or, worse, were rapists, Hollywood has largely ignored the conflict of our times against Islamic extremism and, more particularly, the Iraq war.

Now that war is proving more successful than some expected - a horrific dictator who employed real rape rooms removed and Iraq emerging as the first, albeit fragile, democracy in the Arab Middle East - that cinematic omission seems increasingly egregious.

Many fine films could and should have been made from this struggle, since what our troops have accomplished is nearly unique in the history of war - walking a delicate tightrope between military force and support for an often-terrified populace brutalized by decades of fascism. And yet Hollywood has disregarded this achievement, choosing to emphasize the tiny minority that disgraced their uniforms while overlooking many authentic American heroes. (The extraordinary tale of U.S. Marines in Fallujah working with tribal leaders to fend off al Qaeda is but one example of a great film story not told.)

There are several reasons for this absence, but they stem, for the most part, from the obvious: Hollywood has, and has had for years, a distinct liberal bias that skews production in one direction only - leftward. The creative and executive movie industry community is stuck in a negative Vietnam-era view of American power, even though that war is years gone and the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq inexact at best.

Overlooked in all this is the movie audience, those unwashed “flyover people,” in film industry parlance, who turned their backs on the likes of “Rendition,” “Redacted” and the rest of the late, unlamented anti-Iraq war movies. Meanwhile, the movie moguls gave those same Middle Americans no opportunity to admire the deeds of their own children, the men and women who fight for us.

Hollywood has not always been that way. Frank Capra, director of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and other American classics, considered his series of World War II documentaries, “Why We Fight,” commissioned by the US government, to be his finest work. Capra led a wartime film unit with fellow directors William Wyler and John Huston.

There were many anti-fascist commercial feature films made in those days as well, including the immortal “Casablanca.” Those patriotic expressions seem too embarrassing for the current generation, although the battle against fascism and its ensuing restrictions on human freedom are essentially the same, then and now.

While criticism of America in our films is of course important and necessary, this almost unremitting attack on our country since Vietnam by our Boomer-dominated movie industry has undoubtedly had the result of encouraging the massive global motion picture audience to disdain us, our freedoms and our lifestyle - even though those are the very values that have enabled those filmmakers to express and enrich themselves with such ease. These anti-American themes in our films have grown over the years as our industry, consciously or unconsciously, tilted its stories to curry favor with foreign moviegoers whose box office often outweighed our own.

Ironically, the Obama Era may provide a chance for the movie industry to return to its more patriotic roots. Almost pathologically anti-Bush, Hollywood rarely approved of anything done (or said) by our 43rd president. Now, one can assume, they would have reason to be proud of our country again. So in coming Oscar nights, when you hear the inevitable Oscar salute to the troops and the equally inevitable burst of applause from the celebrity crowd, shout at your television for them to put their money where their proverbial mouths are: Make some movies that sing the praises of the bravest of our young men and women.

Roger L. Simon, chief executive officer of Pajamas Media, was nominated for an Academy Award in screenwriting for “Enemies, A Love Story.” His latest book, “Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror,” was published this month by Encounter. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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