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This week's Editorial

Mirror as Mirror of the World
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Reality Bytes
War Heroes
by Jenifer Dixon
War Heroes

Is it real or is it media? And how can you tell the difference?

The movie Pearl Harbor, running at 3 1/2 hours, may actually be longer than the original event.

Although I would give the storyline a little higher rating than The Guardian did, what is remarkable about the movie is not the plot but the bombing sequence. Special effects have superpassed the movies in which they're displayed in artistry. Dolby sound and slomo and tight editing gives you more than the "you are there" feeling; they give you the "you are there, everywhere' feeling, a feeling and awareness it would be impossible to achieve if you were at the actual event.

And that is the genius of the movies. They are a vbast improvement on life. even the dumb ones. Compared to the silver screen, life is slow, dull and not so sexy. In pearl harbor you cry with the lovely heroine, sali the heavens with the daredevil hero, make love in the heat of the moment and die a thousand deaths all without sacrifcing a mouthful of popcorn. So what's new?

Yes, movies are better than reality. But they are not reality. They are propaganda, sometimes overtly political propaganda and at other times they operate on a much more subtle way. No man is an island but each of us is a little like Pearl Harbor, a litttle island lost in a a vast sea of propaganda.

The sex is Pearl Harbor is minimal sweet really, that is the sex between boy and girl, discreet like the era of the 40s. But the real sex is hot and it's long and it's between you and the screen. The real sex is the bombing sequence.

And like good sex it seems to go on forever and like good sex it takes you to a different time aone and like good sex it leaves you sated. Bodies fly as explosion follows explosion and you watch torpedoes penetrate the hulls of prostrate ships. There are even post-coital scenes shot in the watery depths looking up at the now floating bodies. The scenes alternate between quick and dirty and soft and romantic. Catholic liteugical music provides the soundscape for those release scenes as men ascend to the sweet hereafter.

The hero of the scene, a Negro in the language of the day previously relegated to the kitchen ries to the occasion, mans a gunnery station and nails some Japs as they were then known. All of this very politically correct although it is interesting that the rite of passage to full citizenship for African Americans was and still is the military.

If you haven't seen the movie you will probably think the analogy is a little sick. but I can't help but notice that violence, usually war violence, has replaced sex as the erotic interlude of so many movies. One explanation could be that sex has been so exploited that there are just no camera angles left undone.

Another explanation is a little more insidious. Are we being prepared for something, slowly conditioned into the acceptance of massive violence? Americans are the heroes in all their glorious golly-gee-whiz innocence. The Japs are conniving, underhanded and smart, but never enough so to defeat the decent, honest American. All that is the predictably, heavy-handed propaganda that you would have to expect of a film called Pearl Harbor released in 2001.

But the level of propaganda that I am alluding to is something else. We are not a nation of warriors. In ffact the argument could be made that we are quite the opposite - a nation of couch potatoes aned anorexics, each of product of a media-driven society. Although these two groups may be waging their own internecine war, neither is a candidate for the battlefield. So what gives?

The American as reluctant hero is re-merging in the them of may recent movies. There was tom Hanks on Normandy Beach in Saving Private Ryan and the daring duo of Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith in Independence Day. Independece Day in not a war movie per say, but in fact, it is, only this time aliens are the bad guys and the good guys are earthlings led by heroic Americans (it's a togh job but who else is gonna do it/).

So glorified is the war hero tht the American Lietenant colonel in charge of the bombing misison over Japan that ends the film, tells his crew that take a kamikaze dive with his plance rather than risk being caught by the Japs.

This is truly odd. Americnas were not noted for their suicide missions during World War II, the Japanese were. The Palestinians re today and are relentlessly damned for them. But the willingness to sacrifice themsevles gives is meant to give our daring duo and boyhood pals a special valor in the eyes of the movie gazing public.

By contrast what is noted is the American reluctance to make the least sacrifice in war. Instead we have a big military machine that does our killing for us from nice safe distances in the sky. However, the same heavy hand seems to be at work in the military as in Hollywood movies glorifying war. Maybe the reason for the carefully choreographed bombing scenes is that the people who make them know nothing of the experience of living (or dying) through them. Dying violently is not romantic and it does not take place accompanied by a great score and the dying probably don't care if the nurse is pretty.

Why are we being served up this sentimental goo at a time when we increasingly shield ourselves from the ill effects of war? So I'll paraphrzse my own question? Are we being prepared for something? And is it our own sacrifice or that of yet another small nation far,far away?

Copyright © 1999-2000, J. Dixon. All Rights Reserved.