Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pop War

Sean J. Vaughan headshot by Sean J. Vaughan

Something that has been on my mind from time to time is the ironic difference between what Americans like in their epic war movies vs. the way America (well, the leadership) acts in the real world with regard to war.

A recent example this millenium is "The Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers". Besides the obvious mistake that I and many folks I know make of calling the evil two towers "the twin towers", America clearly resembles the evil side much more than the good side. The ring clearly represents technology and the way the "good" side looks at technology vs the way the "evil" side looks at technology eerily maps to how many in the Muslim countries (including bin Laden) and western civilization view technology; namely: If "the good" use the ring they succumb to its power and become evil; if "the evil" use the ring they can and likely will destroy the world. Even the manner in which "the good" eventually win the day partly utilizes "terrorist" methodology: common creatures (hobbits) infiltrating the "evil" territories and destroying the ultimate weapon (the ring) which has the side affect of weakening and helping in the defeat of the evil enemy.

The scariest example of this irony is with Star Wars (at least the first three movies). The imagery of the destruction of the Twin Death Stars eerily coincides with the imagery of the twin towers' destruction; not to mention the actual methods employed by The Rebels and Al Quaeda to produce said destruction. The scariest bit of all is how America's government fully embraced the relationship by terming the retaliation "America Strikes Back," a clear link to "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back". Why are we so eager to embrace the evil side?

Another weaker example is "Gladiator" where Maximus goes from being a celebrated Roman war leader to a lowly slave gladiator who sticks it to the resident Ceasar. Weakly analogous to Bin Laden working with American interests against The Soviet Union only to "turn against" us later.

Movies provide a very good mirror for what people's perceptions are. The more popular the movie the more people likely relate to the protagonist or message. Based on this information, it seems clear that Americans should be able to relate to the Al Quaeda situation fairly readily. (Not necessarily agree with it, but at least have some understanding for their plight).

It makes sense that Senator Murray and Representative McDermott from the Seattle area would have more understanding than other congressional leaders about this: the new popularization of coffee originated around here and was first popularized in Muslim countries. (A pretty major shift in Islam was caused by disagreement between the religious leaders and "the people" on whether consumption of coffee was "ok" or not as I understand it).

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