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Patanjali Sokaris


Action movies – right-wing propaganda?

Action movies can be exciting entertainment and a vicarious diversion from the difficulties we have in our lives. But what is the world view that they present?

There are some things movies have to do so that we are not overwhelmed with a plethora of faces to deal with. Thus, rather than legions, our focus is drawn to a few key players so that we can have more emotional attachment to what happens to them. This helps us to make that suspension of disbelief that we need to really immerse ourselves into the movie's plot.

However, this simplified paradigm, if we start pulling that thinking into the rest of our lives, may allow us to think that we don't need many people to make a difference to society. The plethora of hero movies and characters only further fuels this delusion. We see this superhero motif applied to sports stars and CEOs, none of whom are risking their lives for others as we have expected heroes from our past to do, but they are happy to take that mantle on, as long as it allows them to amass huge fortunes without having to sacrifice anything.

Of course, all this is a delusion. A key few people may be involved in starting ground-breaking technology or businesses, but it takes hundreds or thousands to make it viable and establish a foothold, and millions to believe it it to make it a success. Yet, those few at the start carry on like they are still carrying all the effort and are still solely responsible for a venture's success when a myriad systems – not made by them – and their support staff are really what keeps the whole show performing.

A few may win a skirmish, but thousands win a battle and millions win a war, and if those masses didn't fight and die, often unnecessarily, we wouldn't remember the likes of Patton or Montgomery. It's the choices of the masses that change the course of history, even if they are inspired by a few. An idea may seem powerful, but it only really becomes that when millions believe in it and put their lives on the line for it and take action to make it a reality for themselves.

Promoting the idea of rugged individualism standing against government or corporate mass oppression is a popular trope in action movies. Why? This may be be an appeal to the Walter Mitty/arm-chair hero in the general populace, but it is part of a very much right-wing propaganda point that serves to legitimise why a few rich billionnaires are entitled to so much more than anyone else.

Movie-making at a worldwide scale is very much a multi-billion dollar business, so it is not unexpected that billionaires will be backing it. They are not going to be promoting films that would undermine their privileged positions, except by the token scapegoating of an obvious bad guy, rather than focussing on the endemic selfish behaviour that it takes anyone to be giga-rich.

Then we have the actors themselves, who have used their fame as the face of the hero myth to push right wing views of the world. Their billionaire backers are not going to tolerate actors who seriously question the dubious morality that generally goes into action movie plot lines, as that would undermine their own dubious morality. The rogue hero trope of action movies suits their self-image as society's heroes, rather than wide consensus, which would need to play out in their own businesses as more democracy in decision-making.

Suspend disbelief while a hero-led action movie is on, but definitely don't let it flow into real life, where it doesn't scale except to further gross inequality. In real life, these gung-ho charactatures of heroes would be autocratic assholes who would annoy the hell out of us while they expect us to tolerate their loud and selfish behaviour.

Covid has shown us who the real heroes are, and they aren't those who feign to call us to freedom yet are not willing to make any sacrifice to keep the rest of us safe. They are the lowly paid anonymous people who stood and looked us in the face while we bought our groceries, not knowing whether we would be the one who would bring death to their door.

Be grateful for the sacrifice of the many, and back efforts to make sure they receive due reward for their efforts. Help efforts for them to have a life that isn't a constant struggle uphill against systems designed by fake heroes to keep us all suppressed from realising how important we all are and how we should be entitled to be our own heroes, and not just in our own minds.

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