The media is full of articles stating that Iraq war movies and films (the fiction features) have not done well at the box office, but compared to the relative lack of, say, Hurricane Katrina movies, or, say, the ongoing national slaughter of the impoverished by the impoverishers movies, the growing numbers of Iraq war movies, by their very existence alone, are doing extremely well.
Far more such movies have been made now than were remotely ever made about the Vietnam war at a comparable time. And far more people see most any of these movies than see most any such documentary. But it’s no cause for celebration, far from it, because these movies are very careful not to be too “antiwar,” too revealing of the basic illegality and immorality of the US conquest of Iraq.
On the left in North America, the novel kind of died or was killed a long time ago, if nowhere else. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was not only first published in serial form in a left periodical, his research for the novel was funded by it – by the socialist newspaper, The Appeal to Reason. I’m aware of no left news periodicals that are regularly running partisan liberatory fiction. Liberation Lit is one of the few left journals of any type that runs much progressive partisan fiction, and that consciously seeks it out.
Left periodicals might find it ever more to their benefit to run Lib Lit type fiction because, at least compared to nonfiction, it reads better in print than online. Moreover, a lot of nonfiction is actually more useful online than in print, by far; whereas, probably the opposite is true for fiction, with the exception of microfiction. Plus, running liberatory fiction would give left news outlets a comparative advantage over the many news outlets that don’t run any fiction at all, or very little.
An immigrant author must be brave enough to “create dangerously,” said Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who delivered the second annual Toni Morrison Lecture last night in Richardson Auditorium and received a standing ovation from the audience.
Danticat discussed how dealing with injustice in her native Haiti inspired her writing and cultivated her belief in the importance of art in coping with oppression and conflict.
Some brief excerpts:
(1903) Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist: “[The novel] may be a great force, that works together with the pulpit and the universities for the good of the people, fearlessly proving that power is abused, that the strong grind the faces of the weak, that an evil tree is still growing in the midst of the garden, that undoing follows hard upon unrighteousness, that the course of Empire is not yet finished, and that the races of men have yet to work out their destiny in those great and terrible movements that crush and grind and rend asunder the pillars of the houses of the nations.”
They interview peace historian Lawrence S. Wittner who says that “it is still the dominant peace sign,” a fact partly due to its beautiful simplicity. It’s perfect for spraying on walls and is a universally recognised symbol of peace and resistance to repression.
“Where’s the first wave of Iraq War fiction?” – asked at Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books, at the New York Times
There are number of good comments there on a variety of matters, though some that are wanting. In answer to that central question, the first waves of Iraq War fiction are in the movies, on TV, in plays and novels and short stories… While there is not nearly as much as one might hope to see, it hasn’t been too difficult to compile a list of dozens of such works, plus works on closely connected US militancy in the “Middle East,” Afghanistan in particular: https://apragmaticpolicy.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/iraq-war-fiction-3/
“Works of art can anchor social movements,” says Bell, Bowdoin’s A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences. “Think of the AIDS quilt, or the Clothesline Project that is used to bring attention to issues of sexual assault and domestic violence against women. Images can be a powerful way to signal, engage, shock. People respond viscerally. It opens up a conversation.”
In a surprising twist on her discipline, Bell has turned to analyses of works of art to guide her in her research. In recent publications in journals including Health, Sociology of Health and Illness, and Qualitative Research in Psychology, Bell has made a case for incorporating the analysis of visual narratives into sociological work as documents and barometers of human experience.
In Deadly Election I explore what would happen if a right-wing administration in Washington definitively crossed the line between democracy and dictatorship. What steps would they take? Who would resist them? The book is also about the frailties and strengths of the human character, of both villains and heroes alike. As a novelist, I’ve always been interested in how political passions shape personal choices and how an unchecked lust for power has a corrosive influence on individuals. The book’s a fast, scary read, but the characters are multi-dimensional and their stories intertwine in interesting and unanticipated ways.
ALI: It’s amazing how all the best selling Urban Ghetto writers – they’re all White.
REED: Right. “The Lords of Urban Fiction.” What I can’t understand why Blacks can’t achieve royal status when it comes to forms that they have largely created? I mean there’s a White King of Rock n’ Roll, there’s a White King of Jazz, how come we can never achieve titles of royalty in these fields we are supposed to prevail in? They held a so called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the other night, where White judges credit people who resemble them with the invention of Rock and Roll. I didn’t even see Blacks in the audience.
There would be no Rock and Roll without Ike Turner, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, etc. Fake ghetto books and fake ghetto music. Elvis Presley, whom they idol, is merely a karaoke makeover of James Brown and Chuck Berry.
Perhaps without quite realising it, De Palma is applying his extensively developed idiom of slash, splatter and gore. After a while, Redacted starts to feel like a sort of politicised exploitation-horror picture. I am still not entirely sure if it is just the director’s default position for representing violence, or if the wayward genius in him senses that, in the era of Abu Ghraib, this is the truest way of representing the essentially grotesque nature of the military adventure in Iraq.
The military has enmeshed itself in American pop culture, infiltrating not only Hollywood, but everything else: from the video-game industry to bigtime sports to the world of online social networking.
DoG: On your website you say that movies are more politicized now than at any time since WWII or the Cold War. Could you give any examples?
MW: This is a huge topic. Many movies, producers, and production companies, and some studios, stars and directors have close ties to the American DOD (Department Of Defence), arms dealers (American and Israeli), oil companies, and/or the ruling Republican Party and neocon Bush backers. The Hollywood/D.C. connection has existed for a long time to some extent but it’s stronger now than ever. After 9/11 Karl Rove met with studio heads and top producers and directors and convinced most of them to be part of the war on terror and to be more patriotic and pro FBI, CIA, Armed Forces…
If an American movie features spies, the military, and military hardware and does not explicitly criticized the government and the Iraq war – it has the full cooperation of the DOD. Some of our tax dollars actually go to providing military planes, boats, weapons, soldiers, advisors… to pro military movies that we pay too much to see – then go buy DVDs of! Many major movies have government agents and agencies right in the credits if you know where to look. Even most people who look back at WWII era movies or early Cold War era movies and realize that they were propaganda, don’t realize what’s happening now. Continue reading Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in Hollywood and TV – at taxpayer expense
Not that M*A*S*H* was all that libratory in many ways, but compared to today…?
“M*A*S*H” started out as a sitcom, and the early chapters were the funniest by far. The show initially stayed away from the controversial dramatic plots that developed in later years when it almost bordered on being preachy sometimes.
The series was based on the best-selling novel and movie about the Korean War, but that war soon became a stand-in for the war in Vietnam.
The strongest anti-war scripts arrived long after the United States had left Korea. But the protest against the Vietnam War was still at a fever pitch when “M*A*S*H” first appeared, and not just with college kids and war protesters but with a majority of people who wanted the fighting to end and the soldiers to come home.
If the polls are right, that’s the same way most people feel today about the war in Iraq. But there’s nothing even remotely like “M*A*S*H” on television today.
No one wants to know by Simon Hattenstone
“Brian De Palma, Nick Broomfield and Paul Haggis have been called traitors and villains, their films branded ‘Bin Laden cinema’. They are desperate to tell the truth about what is going on in Iraq. But there seems little appetite for war films right now.”
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What can be said of Iraq war fiction thus far? What of the art of partisan fiction? In an interview with Courtney E. Martin, Benjamin Percy notes:
I wrote about the [Iraq war] battleground at home [in 2005], something that had been neglected entirely. A few months ago I did a reading with Brian Turner, who served as an infantry leader in Iraq and who wrote a beautifully haunting book of poetry called Here, Bullet. When we were hanging out afterward, he clapped me on the back and said he thought what I was doing was important and he couldn’t understand why more people weren’t writing about the war. That was a great affirmation for me.
In fact the “Iraq war battleground at home” had not been “neglected entirely.” Noah Cicero wrote about it in an accomplished short novel The Human War published in 2003; Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint was published in 2004; and my own novel Homefront was first [self] published with other fiction in January 2005 after not being picked up by a publisher through the end of 2003 and 2004.
Ishmael Reed, interview with Wajahat Ali:
I predicted there would be a theocracy in the 80’s in my book The Terrible Twos, where I had a preacher running the White House in 1982.
You see, I think when you’re an independent intellectual you’re going to get it from all sides. I get it from the Left, the Right, the Middle. When I proposed that people said it was silly, but now we have Huckabee and Bush, and others. I mean they’re all still players. But, when I said it, they thought it was silly.
“Two of America’s most talented activists team up to deliver a bold and hilarious satire of modern environmental policy in this fully illustrated graphic novel. The US government gives robot machines from space permission to eat the earth in exchange for bricks of gold. A one-eyed bunny rescues his friends from a corporate animal testing laboratory. And two little girls figure out the secret to saving the world from both of its enemies (and it isn’t by using energy-efficient light bulbs or biodiesel fuel). As the World Burns will inspire you to do whatever it takes to stop ecocide before it’s too late.”