Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state?
Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following:
Hawaii Five-0 Police
Blue Bloods Police
Whistleblower Government justice officials (retired)
Without a Trace FBI agents
Forensic Files Government justice officials
Quantico FBI agents
And I haven’t even touched on the endless Law & Order franchise. Even if we venture into the realm of Star Trek, we still find heroes authorized by government. (The Federation.)
The same goes for movies. Here are three showing near me:
Mission Impossible Government agents
The Equalizer 2 CIA operative
Skyscraper FBI agent
You get the point. Certainly there are comedies and even the occasional exception among dramas, but the heroes of Hollywood are nearly all government authorized. Even when government agents are portrayed as wildly out of control and dangerous (as in Enemy of the State, for example), it’s good government agents who end up saving the day in the end.
When was the last film you saw that featured a heroic doctor or businessman or (gasp) a philosopher or saint?
Government + Violence = Good
It’s all too easy for dramas to major on violence. That’s the most obvious and visceral type of conflict, after all. But to make the violence good in some way, to sanctify it, is essential. If not, we end up writing stories about very bad people who succeed, and that strikes nearly all of us as wrong. (Thankfully.)
Why, then, should the sole agent of sanctification be the state? Historically this is a wild anomaly. Was Hercules state sanctified? Were Abraham or Moses or Jesus?
Were the Wright brothers or Bell or Edison? Or the Curies? Where they not heroes as well?
And what of Sherlock Homes or Huckleberry Finn or Robinson Crusoe or even Paul Kersey?
And yet Hollywood produces almost no heroes without also presenting the state as the womb in which heroism is formed. Honestly, it’s an artistic disgrace… a sycophantic sellout.
Two Big Reasons
There are many reasons why this is currently the case, including things like, “The first cop procedural made money, so everyone’s copying it.” Beneath these, however, are two big drivers:
US government agencies are major players in Hollywood. The Independent found that the Pentagon backed more than 1,100 movies – 900 of them between 2005 and 2017 – including Flight 93, Ice Road Truckers, and Army Wives. The book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood, catalogs many more and shows that the government suppressed plot lines about illegal arms sales, the CIA dealing in drugs, creation of bioweapons by the military, the interaction between private armies and oil companies, the treatment of minorities by the government, torture, and the failure to prevent 9/11. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham cataloged still more in 2009.
Democracy has supplanted Christianity. As I’ve noted recently, it used to be that people looked to the Bible as a moral standard. Over the past couple of centuries, however, Christianity and its book have been removed and replaced with nothing at all. Filling that void has been DemocracyTM, which isn’t really democracy and which has simply become an idol. At one time the governments of the West had to show themselves legitimate by supporting and honoring the Bible or at least a Christian religion. Now they show themselves legitimate by lauding the amorphous “democracy,” which really amounts to lauding themselves.
So, we have a situation where government is all in all: There is no outside standard by which to judge. “Democracy” is both the government and the justification for government at the same time. But since logic is no longer taught in school (and since it is scary to insult power) nearly everyone accepts this as “The way things are… don’t make trouble.”
In this situation, why wouldn’t a government manipulate the stories people consume? Who’s going to complain? A few angry heretics?
And given all of this, are we really surprised that Hollywood turned into a den of abuse?
We desperately need an outside standard by which to judge the world. Our lack of one is becoming glaringly obvious.
I can survive with the Bible as a central reference, so long as no one gets a monopoly on interpretation. But if most people don’t want the Bible, that’s okay with me too, so long as we get some outside standard.
Anything that’s basically benevolent and separate from power will do.
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A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
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