Heroes: Cinema and the Military

Today, I’m breaking from what we have been doing, instruction and continued updates on the progress of our movie, to address something very important. Hope you bear with me.

Movies and films have been filled with military figures and have told the stories of military events for just about as long as the medium has been alive. Buster Keaton‘s “The General” tells the story of a hapless hero accidentally thrown into a vital role during the Civil War, and D.W. Griffith‘s “Birth of a Nation” is a sweeping Civil War epic spanning generations (yes, it’s full of racist lies and is, unfortunately, partially responsible for reinvigorating the KKK; get over all that and see it; it’s a brilliant piece of film history regardless).

Buster Keaton in "The General"

But why has Hollywood, and cinema in general, always been so enamored with the military, especially in the United States? It’s simple.

Cinema is about telling the stories of Heroes.

The men and women who put their lives on the line day after day to protect the innocents and values of our country are Heroes, and cinema needs heroes to continue its existence. Not only is it a story imperative to have a Hero in a movie, but the audience wants Heroes! People won’t see movies without heroes (anti-heroes aside). Therefore, Hollywood must give the audience what it wants, heroes, and they have been doing so for a century.

During Vietnam, however, the military became demonized in film. No longer were they portrayed as self-sacrificing warriors for the greater good, as they were during WWII. Now they were either drug addled, blood thirsty psychopaths, or victims. Now, your politics and the rightness of the war aside, the demonizing of the military was wrong, and Hollywood is slowly figuring this out as it continues to demonize the military with box office travesties like “Stop-Loss” and “Green Zone.” The audience is tired of seeing their heroes treated like villains, and they’re letting Hollywood know with their wallets.

Today is Memorial Day, and so I encourage you to watch a movie that celebrates our military for the heroes that they are (so, yes, that means “Apocalypse Now” is out; but come on, it’s pretty average to begin with).

Let us take today to remember those that gave their lives and those that continue to put theirs on the line to protect this country and everyone in it, even in our movie choices.

And to all the heroes retired, active, or laid to rest: Thank You.

Saving Private Ryan

This week’s lesson:
The Audience wants Heroes


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6 Responses to Heroes: Cinema and the Military

  1. kdalise says:

    The General is the first silent film I ever saw that I really and truly enjoyed watching. So good.

    Ahem, anyway… It seems like Hollywood has invested so heavily into the idea that modern soldiers are, as you said, either villains or victims, that they can’t be bothered to even try to make a film that portrays them as heroes. Their stories are based on their own cooked-up conspiracy theories and political leanings. What they should be doing is telling stories, not trying to sell an agenda.

    • So true. Movies are meant to be ENTERTAINMENT. The minute you imbue a movie with a political message, it ceases to be entertaining to everyone who doesn’t agree with that specific message. That’s why we’re trying to remain as politically neutral with “NOW UPON A TIME” as possible while still being culturally relevant. Not an easy task.

      That said, hopefully this post won’t start a political debate. That would kind of be counterproductive… –BB

      • Kelli says:

        I will not comment about politics. I will not comment about politics. I will not comment about politics…

  2. Heather says:

    Great points and good insight. My hubby and I “celebrated” Memorial Day by watching one of our war movie favorites “We Were Soldiers”.

  3. Debbie Nelsen says:

    People love heroes….we need to have them so we have something to aspire to. And, not to mention these Heroes are our fathers & brothers! Thanks for putting it out there!

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