Hollywood Cashes In & Makes Wars Easier To Support
MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL OF LAW
HOLLYWOOD CASHES IN ON WAR MOVIES---
AND MAKES WARS EASIER TO SUPPORT
A Massachusetts School of Law Report
Hollywood may oppose war but it has cashed in handsomely from the 3,000 war-related films it has churned out since 1939, 21 of them Oscar winners for "best picture," a noted economist says.
Where "bomb and bullet makers must seize their profits while the fighting is hot," writes David Whitten of Auburn University, Alabama, "movie makers can cash in on a war forever after, and they do. Hollywood, for all its outspokenness against war, created war's popular image."
"The overwhelming majority of modern citizens know nothing about the military other than what they see on the electronic and silver screens," Whitten points out. "Few have firsthand experience with combat."
"Added to that reality is the removal of that vast majority from any prospect of being conscripted to fight and the prospect of participating in war from the sofa or armchair through the marvel of television, embedded journalists, and satellite transmission," Whitten writes.
"Millions of Americans can support a war effort with no more consequences to them or their families than the energy it takes to change the channel on their television receiver."
Whitten raises the issue of Hollywood's influence on the public mind in an article titled "Cinematistics: The Cosmetic Face of War" in "The Long Term View," a journal published by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. The article appeared in Volume 6, Number 2, titled, "Why We Seek War."
War movies, the economist says, made up roughly 18 percent of the top grossing films marketed between 1939 and 2001. "Since 1939, the top money-making films include no fewer than 76 war movies, for an average of better than one a year," Whitten points out. For example, "Pearl Harbor" was a big attraction in 2001, proof "that wars never go out of date for Hollywood."
In 1939, the first year financial data was kept on films, "Gone With The Wind" grossed $199 million and, if measured in constant dollars, would be the top grossing film of all time. Other top war grossing films were "Santa Fe Trail" in 1940; "Sergeant York" and "A Yank in the R.A.F.", both in 1941; and "Casablanca," "Mrs. Miniver," and "Random Harvest," all released in 1942.
"Hollywood has a love/hate relationship with war," Whitten points out. "Although there are well known exceptions --- John Wayne hailed as a conservative who supported the war in Vietnam --- most citizens of the cinematic community are liberal antiwar activists who feed at the trough of war."
The Video Hound's Golden Movie Retriever for 2003, a veritable window on war movies, lists 233 films in just one category, general war movies. Its actual World War Two list contains 734 additional titles. And of American Film Institute's(AFI) Top 100 American Movies from 1896-1996, 20 are war movies, Whitten reports.
Even among AFI's 100 funniest movies of all time, five are war films, the economist says: "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (3); M*A*S*H (7); The General (18); Private Benjamin (82); and "Good Morning Vietnam"(100).
Whitten compares the opposition of Hollywood film industry members to the health warnings printed on cigarette packages and on bottles containing alcoholic beverages:
"The public is warned, but the product is not withdrawn from an anxious market. Tobacco farmers may harbor genuine concern for the health of smokers, but they grow and sell tobacco nonetheless. In advertisements, distillers ask their clientele to drink responsibly, not to stop drinking."
The economist goes on to write, "Movie makers take a similar stance: We oppose war, but we make our living, or at least part of it, by making films popular with the public, and we are going to continue to make them --- if we stopped, someone else would take our place." (Italics in original.)
Whitten concludes, "The film industry opposed the war on Iraq, but the search is on for a fetching actress to portray Jessica Lynch in a film about her capture, ill treatment at the hands of the enemy, rescue by bold and brave men and women of Coalition Forces, and recovery and rehabilitation. Life goes on, and so does war." Economist Whitten is co-author, among other works, of "Democracy In Desperation: The Depression of 1893."
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