Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Time for some serious art about war
Posted on 06/05/2004 8:19:15 AM PDT by Pokey78
I bought a Glenn Miller CD the other day. Impulse purchase. I'd careered off the highway and into the mall to grab a big geopolitical analysis book I suddenly needed and, as I dashed in the store, I ran straight into a new best-of-Miller compilation they had on display. I had a long drive till past midnight ahead of me and it seemed just the thing.
They'd had a lot of it on the TV last weekend: featurettes about Washington's new World War II memorial, plenty of interviews with veterans and plenty of period music in the background. Though, of course, if it's your period, you don't think of it as period music. I'd caught a snatch of that marvelous, confident bounce of ''Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (With anyone else but me)'':
''. . .I just got word
From a guy who heard
From a guy next door to me
The girl he met
Just loves to pet
And it fits you to a tee. . .''
For younger readers, I probably ought to explain that Glenn Miller was a bandleader, and when America joined the war he persuaded the brass to let him run an Army Air Force band to pep up the spirits of the boys far from home. He died in December 1944 when his plane came down over the English Channel en route from London to an engagement in France.
For older readers who've been watching the D-Day anniversary celebrations, I don't need to explain a thing. I shoved the Miller compilation in the CD player and up came his theme tune, ''Moonlight Serenade.'' I was driving through the mountains on a beautiful blue moonlit night, which ought to fit the tune perfectly. But it doesn't. That warm, sweet sound is linked to wartime forever, even for those of us who weren't there and know it only as the incidental music to films and TV drama. The serious jazz guys are sniffy about the Miller sound. That clarinet lead with the tenor saxes playing along an octave lower can sound awful cloying in large doses, but, if the mood's right, it's gorgeously romantic. It's the music oozing across a crowded floor in the dying moments at a palais de danse in southern England, and you're pressed together till the final bar because tomorrow you're shipping out . . .
Flash forward 60 years: The old Allies are gathered at Normandy for the D-Day anniversary at a time when we're well into a new war. This time around, the only pop star in uniform is Madonna. On her current world tour, she wears a blue burqa and, when she disrobes, as she inevitably does, she's wearing a U.S. army uniform underneath. Geddit? The Taliban and the Bush administration are both equally oppressive, see?
Not so long ago, Madonna knew her place. It was hanging naked over a wall with her bottom in the air and a German wolfhound giving her the come-hither look while a gay dance troupe cavorted in the background. See Page 67, if memory serves, of her 1992 picture book Sex. If only Madonna went to as much trouble to take a novel position when it comes to war. But no, there's only the usual lazy vapid soul-deadening equivalism: Bush, Saddam, Ashcroft, Mullah Omar, what's the diff? The herd mentality of celebrity ''dissent.'' Would it kill 'em once in a while to dissent from their dissent and try something other than the stultifying orthodoxy of Hollywood cardboard courage?
Sixty years ago, it wasn't just the love songs. James Lileks wrote a column last week about an old Disney cartoon in which Donald Duck gets drafted and assigned a million potatoes to peel. So he carves the skins into the word ''PHOOEY.'' As Lileks says, ''It takes a confident culture to take the average gripes of the enlisted man and put them front and center.'' A ''confident culture'' is exactly the right expression: so confident it could acknowledge soldiering as a disruption both comic (KP) and painful (faraway sweethearts). It's not fake, it's not rah-rah, but it's in tune with the moment.
Once again, flash forward six decades: We've been in the new war now for almost three years, and, unlike Donald Duck and Bogey and Bergman, and Eleanor Powell tapping her patriotic heart now, Hollywood has absolutely nothing to say on the subject, except for a couple of Michael Moore crockumentaries.
I went to see ''The Day After Tomorrow'' the day before yesterday, and it's a hoot, highly recommended -- the best enviro-doom comedy I've seen in years. The director, Roland Emmerich, has made an entire career showing famous Washington and New York landmarks getting destroyed by space aliens (''Independence Day'') and underwater monsters (''Godzilla''). Before 9/11, this was cheesily opportunist. Now it just seems perverse. When the Chrysler Building comes crashing down due to a freak cold snap brought on by Dick Cheney (I hope I'm not giving any plot details away), it's the reductio ad absurdum of the lengths Hollywood's willing to go to avoid saying a word about the fellows who actually did bring down a New York landmark.
Even when some hapless studio exec accidentally options a property that happens to have Islamist terrorists in it -- like Tom Clancy's The Sum Of All Fears -- the first thing they do is change the enemy to German neo-Nazis. Imagine it's 1943, you're in a script meeting about ''Casablanca,'' and Jack Warner says, ''I like it. But do the bad guys have to be Germans? How about if we reset it in Massachusetts and make them sinister British neo-Redcoats?''
Something has gone badly wrong when (with the exception of a few country songs) our popular culture visibly recoils from the biggest event of our time. Hollywood has plenty of ''courage'' when it comes to Michael Moore conspiracies or Madonna's bottom. But ask them to make a post-9/11 thriller in which Americans are the good guys and the enemy is, well, the enemy, and they'd tell you there's no audience for it. Just like they told Mel he'd lose his shirt on ''The Passion of the Christ.'' It's not about economics, it's about the loss of that ''cultural confidence'' James Lileks wrote about.
Which is a big problem, because the smarter Islamists have figured out that's the way to beat us. Imagine our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at ceremonies 60 years from now: Where's the soundtrack?
Sadly, he's right.
Steyn, he's the best.
The only part of The Day After Tomorrow that I like hearing about is when the tornado rips through Hollywood.
Let's see how long it takes Traitorwood to do a movie about Abu Greb.
Greatpiece. However, there's NO WAY int he world he was sober when he wrote this....he HAD tohave a little buzz on. So, the question is, WDSD?..what does Steyn drink..Lawdy, I hope it ain't Molson's or Labatt's..my money's on Jamieson's..
This is why soldiers come to rule in Later days.
They're the only figures the mob respects.
heres the title for the movie, Abu Ghraib , WHEN THE GOOD BAD GUYS BEAT THE BAD BAD GUYS.
BANG! He nailed it!
This is his best yet!
Thanks for the ping... passing it on.
Well, yes and no. There were some great songs out of World War II. Fantastic songs. The only problem is if we watch a current movie depicting that era, the only song that's played is "In the Mood". I like the song but you would think it was the only one that was ever composed from the years 1940-45.
This largely apolitical girl I've fallen for with a thunk that could be heard in the next country convinced me to see Day After Tomorrow with her. I didn't like the idea because I didn't like the film's politics, and I don't like seeing thousands of people die, even in a movie. But of course it was with Her, and so I did.
It was the most ridiculous movie I've ever seen. There were plot holes you could drive a truck through; of course going out was suicidal, and the temperature was dropping by "ten degrees a second", and yet people went out and survived anyway. Sheesh. If the temperature was dropping 10 degrees a second, everyone in the movie would have been dead within a minute! Argh!
It was rather interesting, though, that it was a feel-good movie that in the end played all the death and destruction for laughs. Weird. I don't get it. I suppose it makes it watchable - as I told Her at the end of the movie, "It wasn't nearly as harrowing as I would have thought". But my moral sense hated that. Geez.
> with the exception of a few country songs
He's right about that. Thanks to Toby Keith, John. M. Montgomery, Daryll Warley, and a few others for the rare exceptions.
I guess the good thing about it is that the plot and science is so absurd that many environmentalists are worried that the movie's political message will backfire.
Toby Keith and Ted Nugent. Sad that it's so few, and there are no movies.....none. Hollywood has become a foreign country.
I've not seen the movie, and don't plan to see it. That said, I think this movie is one of those movies that is unintentionally funny. If you have ever seen Exorcist II: The Heretic, you'll know what I mean. It was made as an election-year movie, and has all of the earmarks of one. It speaks volumes that it was heavily touted in the media, before the premiere, and endorse by Algore.
I like this one among his many quotables.
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