Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Triumph of the Willis

I read Nick's latest on Sunday, and I really hoped someone else would have a shot.

In Die Hard 4.0, a cyber-terrorist paralyses the eastern seaboard of the United States. The lights go out all over New York, roads are gridlocked and airports closed, and a panicking citizenry hears rumours of anthrax attacks.

If this sounds a touch familiar, the writers and director are careful to emphasise that resemblances to 9/11 only go so far. The criminal mastermind isn't an Islamist, but Thomas Gabriel, a deranged computer genius. When the US government refuses to fund his research, he cries 'one day you will be sorry you spurned me', or words to that effect. Gabriel doesn't have a political motive for throwing the nation into chaos.

Indeed, this plot does sound familiar. It sounds like this:

A gang led by the German terrorist Hans Gruber invades and secures the building, under the pretense of wishing to secure the release of various terrorist operatives. The party-goers are subdued and it is revealed that the group are really thieves who plan to steal millions of dollars in bearer bonds from the building's security vault.

Imagine the cheek of it! They stole the plot of a movie where the baddie acts like a terrorist, but he's really just a thief! I think the makers of the original should sue. In that film and the second sequel, the baddies were played by Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons respectively. In Live Free or Die Hard the baddie is Timothy Olyphant - yet more evidence of Hollywood's sickening bias against white Americans. Everyone knows that all the real bad guys went to RADA, yet this movie shows an American as a villain. Will they stop at nothing to distort the truth?

Nick is of course quite right to point out Hollywood's bias in favour of our friends who wear towels on their heads. Who can forget the deluge of movies about the IRA, ETA, whatever Timothy McVeigh's lot were called, Latin American death squads, Baader-Meinhof, and so on and so forth. The United States was involved in fighting in Vietnam between 1959 and 1975 and what did liberal Hollywood give us? M*A*S*H. (Oh, and The Green Berets, but there was a notable shortage of contemporaneous films - and MASH was supposed to be about Korea.)

The global mayhem since 9/11 has not affected film in America, nor television in Britain, to anything like the degree a reasonably well-informed media buff would have predicted on the day.

Indeed, since 2001, contemporary politics has dropped out of Hollywood. Once saluted for its documentary-like coverage of say grassroots revolutionaries, Los Angeles based film-makers have now shrunk from the real world to one of total fantasy. Even British hero James Bond in the 2006 Casino Royale faces terrorists who look nothing like Osama bin Laden. What a far cry from the original book which was almost a trainspotter's guide to the modi operandi of the KGB. And regardless of the politics of the star, the Die Hard movies are liberal in intent: McClane is pretty much an anti-James Bond character, blue-collar, not part of the state machinery; the only person who believes him in the first film. is a black uniformed policeman, all his superiors take Alan Rickman at his word. Bond is about class and education getting you through; the Die Hards are about the integrity of the absence of both.

I was both a lefty and the 80s and the kind of saddo who stays for the credits of films. In No Way Out the two heavies who chase Kevin Costner are listed as "Contra #1" and "Contra #2". (See, more left-wing bias: why couldn't they have been left-wing crazies? Because, perhaps, there wouldn't be any of those in the Pentagon at the time?) And that's pretty much it for filmic reaction to internal conflict.

In Back to the Future, Executive Decision, True Lies and dozens of others, Arabs were off-the-peg bad guys. Yet after 9/11, the stereotypes weren't fleshed out with an all-too-real psychopathic ideology, but abandoned.

Does he really mean that the minor roles in Back to the Future given as "Libyan Terrorist" and "Libyan Van Driver" count as some kind political statement? Apart from the barrel-scraping, there's an assumption that the first real act of aggression against the US by Arabs or an Arabic nation was in 2001. Yet even an unreasonably ill-informed media buff could have named the Iran hostage crisis or the growing hostility of Libya at the time. (And were Libyans any more 'fleshed out' after Lockerbie?)

Meanwhile, the actor playing Guy of Gisborne in the BBC's reworking of Robin Hood for the 21st century explained that the old story was now about 'the perpetuation of terror' by the powerful. 'It's almost in the bad guys' interests to keep Robin alive - like the modern situation with terrorists. Guy and the Sheriff need him as a scapegoat, to keep fear in the hearts of the people'.

If Nick had read a certain novel by a Tribune journalist who turned on the left, he might realise that the above is more or less a paraphrase of Emmanuel Goldstein.

The BBC's logic [that the government was the real villain, hyping up the threat to justify placing the British under the iron heel of the national security state] is absurd when I write it out on paper but it makes psychological sense on the screen.

Well, that logic worked very well in an anti-Communist novel.

Sorry about the title, I'm uninspired today.


Blogger flyingrodent said...

Jesus, first the Condescending Liberals at the dinner party, now it's Why won't Hollywood address the Muslamonazis?

Is he morphing into Hugh Hewitt before our very eyes?

7/18/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a fantastically unhinged column. Everyone has let Nick down. Hollywood has let Nick down by not having enough crazy Al Qaeda enemies in blockbuster action films. The terrorists have let Nick down because they failed to kill enough westerners to create a panic - as in
"From the 9/11 atrocities on, the dimmest citizens could be in no doubt that forces were swirling around the globe that would murder them without restraint. Yet after 9/11, they haven't been murdered in significant numbers"

And the Brits and Yanks have let Nick down by not being firm enough against the terrorists. Wierdly Nick says that the fact that terrorism since 9/11 has been less spectacular " leads to a frantic desire to appease and deny. To pretend we're the 'root cause' of the threat or say that the it has been manipulated by cynical politicians"

all very odd logic.
Nick also seems to think the pro-torture "24" is a good thing (?!).

and wants more of this kind of thing, the well worth watching "planet of the arabs"

7/19/2007 08:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Nick has his history wrong here. The stereotype of Arab-as-terrorist had actually been dwindling away some time before 9/11, precisely because it was a lazy and obvious stereotype which no longer appealed to scriptwriters. After 9/11, it would have become and even easier and more obvious stereotype, which is probably why it hasn't resurfaced. Making your terrorists non-Arab is now an easy way to give a slight twist to your otherwise run-of-the-mill plot.

(And can anyone who watches 'Spooks' give any comment on his suggestion that its Mossad plot episode was anti-semitic? I didn't see it.)

7/19/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick should also read Stella Rimington's "At Risk", which also manages to go all root cause and blame the yanks for terrorism. If even the ex head of MI5 has caught this cancer eating away at the heart fo decency, this cowardly self blame, we really are doomed

7/19/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In other blogs on this - i tihnk on the guardian site itself - people who have seen Spooks pointed out that there have been a lot of episodes featuring Mualim terrorist bad guys, so Nick would appear to be having one of those 'forgetful' days.

What I don't understand is what Nick actually expects. All action films to have Muslim bad guys? Everything to be as 'good' as 24?

7/19/2007 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW did anyone see David A in the Times on Tuesday? A sneering reference to the Bruschetta crowd, and an argument that, although he might have been wrong on Iraq, the fact is the troops are there, decent Iraqis (he cited the government) want them there, and if they left there would be even more horrors.
He failed to mention the polls of Iraqis during the past two years that have shown a majority (not decent?) want the troops to leave and he dismissed the Lancet study of Iraqi deaths (the 600,00 plus one, which even the government's advisers thought was sound) as being loopy.
Denied it was a civil war, saying civil wars are a lot worse. I suppose if you think that only a few thousand have been killed then...
I wonder how much of this he actually believes these days and how much he thinks that Murdoch, who must be paying him a tidy sum, wants to hear it?

7/19/2007 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The episode has Mossad pretending to be Al-Quaeda terrorists in order to prevent a Saudi Arabian nuclear power deal - or as Nick puts it "Mossad agents in disguise engaged in the perennial Jewish conspiracy." Well, that's one interpretation.

Of course Mossad would never engage in such a way (cough)Lavon affair (cough). Or indeed the bombing of the Israeli embassy in London, where a false flag operation was more plausible than the official explanation.

7/19/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I wonder how much of this he actually believes these days and how much he thinks that Murdoch, who must be paying him a tidy sum, wants to hear it?"

According to Alistair Campbell's diaries, James Murdoch is quite pro-Palestinian.

7/19/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And can anyone who watches 'Spooks' give any comment on his suggestion that its Mossad plot episode was anti-semitic? I didn't see it."

Harry's Place reckoned "Spooks" was smoking gun proof of BBC anti-semitism because the Mossad episode was a two-parter, while the ones with nasty Islamist types were single episodes. I think the thread may have ended up with people counting minutes of airtime.

Why am I posting this like it'll be a surprise to anyone?

7/22/2007 10:16:00 PM  

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