I was watching F9 (of the Fast & Furious franchise) and I was struck by one line. The Fast crew is working for the CIA now (who are somehow the good guys) and the bad guy’s plan is to “reboot the world order within minutes.” As if that’s a bad thing. As if this world order is anything but permanent imperial war. But that’s Hollywood for ya.
The Fast Crew then proceeds to trash random countries willy nilly because that’s the world order. This is why I root for the villains in movies now.
The full line in F9 is, “if you take Aries and upload it to a satellite, then it’ll be a matter of time before someone can control any weapon system, traditional, nuclear, stuff we haven’t even seen yet, and just point it wherever they want.” Of course this is what the American government, who they’re freelancing for, already does. They already have massive weapons systems pointed wherever they want. And they have already used them to kill millions this short century alone. They have already dropped nukes on civilian populations twice, invaded multiple countries and constantly assassinate and torture people — including American citizens and journalists — at will. This is the system the supposedly rebellious Fast & Furious crew defends, against imaginary opposition. Even more horrifying, this is the status quo we actually live under.
Defending this world order is the general plot of every Hollywood blockbuster. Some villain tries to change the status quo and gets violently put down. The superheroes of Avengers work with a US government department and many of this scripts have to be cleared with the Department of Defense before they’re released. The core propaganda message is that the way things are is fine, and any change is evil and must be violently resisted. This also matches the general perception on the western news, which is that bad guys are everywhere and America/NATO just has to be bombing/occupying/sanctioning everyone all the time.
There is actually no reason for this in the real world, but in Hollywood propaganda there’s always someone trying to end the world, which is why all this violence and violent technology is necessary. American hegemony system is necessary because otherwise people would be pointing nukes at you. Nevermind that the system is literally America pointing nukes at everyone else, and making themselves less safe in the process. No, you should be afraid of, uh, aliens, or Russians, or Arabs, or literally anything but the violent empire you actually live under.
Once you spot the narrative it’s hard to unsee it, because this storyline is everywhere. It’s loosely the hero’s journey, except weaponized by history’s greatest villains. The White Empire has figured out the plot to Star Wars and now uses it to put down any rebellious thoughts. Hell, they get people to cheer on the CIA, which to any moderately observant person is like watching a film cheering on the Gestapo. People sit in the cinema cheering Avengers or whatever, but what are they actually cheering for?
Despite having superpowers, those ‘heroes’ don’t actually do anything to change the world. They don’t build anything or do anything with their powers to help the oppressed of the world. Indeed, they both fictionally and actually collaborate with the US government and military. It’s only the villains that have any ideas, and they get beaten to death for their troubles. That’s what you’re cheering for. Rebellion is commodified and made into a Hollywood dream state, for people to sit in the dark and delude together. Meanwhile the climate-choking, nation-destroying, soul-crushing nightmare of White Empire goes on and on.
As another example (I’m just going by movies I’ve seen, but you can choose literally any one), take TENET. The Christopher Nolan film is about a future devastated by climate collapse which decides to do something. They send technology back to effectively reboot time. In response, the CIA gets one of their agents to violently defeat the ‘bad guys’ (Russians and Indians) which actually means… continuing civilization on course to collapse. Once you unwind the radical time-shift of Nolan’s work, it’s a shockingly conservative film.
No one here is remotely concerned about fact that the Earth gets unlivably bad. Instead they violently reassert the status quo, so a billionaire white woman can drop her kid off at private school. That’s literally the emotional climax of the film, while the CIA agent murders an old Indian lady that was trying to do something. I liked TENET when I saw it, but now that I’ve deconstructed the plot, it’s the same as every other film. Someone tries to change the world and that person is evil and must be murdered.
In both TENET and F9, the people doing the beating down are diverse. Modern Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion means being included into Empire, not Empire going down. For the global majority, it is us becoming like them, not them becoming like us. Some day a black man will be James Bond, causing havoc in random countries, when what we really need is a Jemis Bonda, trashing England, toppling the King, and stealing our stuff back. But that will never happen. The players change but the song remains the same. Full speed ahead down a climate, cultural, and spiritual cliff. They’re letting colored people and women take the wheel just in time to take the blame.
Hence you cast a black man or a white woman in a role which could just as easily be a white man. It’s purely cosmetic change. The new colored or female characters are still doing the same things that the old white men did. The women in these action films are ‘liberated’ by being as violent as the men and the black men are working for the CIA. Fucking great. It’s just a new lick of paint on the old imperial war machine which always was, come to think of it, staffed by colored people.
This is of course reflects reality. Art shapes life and life shapes art, it’s hard to say where one starts or ends. Hence in the UK they have brown Home Office Ministers being even more racist than the white ones. You get black artists and athletes expressing paeans to capitalism, because it worked for them. The deprivation that so many celebrities come from is sold as inspirational, and an exhortation to ‘work harder’, as if we must all be the best at something rather than simply living in a decent world. As if this is somehow a good system and not some wretched version of the Hunger Games, forcing people to entertain or fight gladiatorial battles for the basic ability to provide for their families.
Cosmetically, more and more of these blockbusters look like a diverse world, while under the hood it’s the same old imperial logic. Power is good, anything that changes power relations is bad, and any violence is justified in preventing change. Hence in F9, the formerly criminal Fast crew is now working for the CIA, and this world order is just presumed to be good. Yet this world order is the single worst polluter in the world, occupies over 750 military bases, besieges much of the world, coups/manipulates everyone else, and for what? There’s no aliens, there’s no villains trying to kill everyone for lols. The imperial violence is real and the threats are made up. That’s Hollywood’s role, and that’s the dirty work that the decades of propaganda has done.
Today countless films (here’s an attempted count from 2016) work with the US Department of Defense Entertainment Media Unit to produce privatize propaganda. As the Pentagon itself says, “Production agreements require the DoD to be able to review a rough cut of a film, so officials can decide if there are areas that need to be addressed before a film is released.” Hence if you’re going to depict the American military (in a big way), you need to be working with the bastards, which Hollywood has no particular problem with. More perniciously, almost all blockbusters follow the narrative demands of empire, which is to show that there are constant threats requiring constant external violence. This is general the plot of every big film, whether it plays with DoD toys or not.
People literally watch movies cheering on the CIA, whose literal job is to murder, lie, and steal. This, to me, is like the Nazi-film-within-a-film of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Watching that we laugh at a movie glorifying Nazi snipers, but there’s literally a movie called American Sniper. Because of the relentless films, Brits somehow think they won World War II by retreating and getting bombed and Americans think that they were somehow the victims of the Vietnam War. History truly repeats as farce, and people are oblivious to it. It is far better to — as they did in Inglourious — light this whole wretched cinema on fire.
What Hollywood thus produces is propaganda for a genocidal, racist, and planet-destroying White Empire which has merely hopped capitals from Europe to America. The American state (which was much admired by Hitler) are just Nazis that won. And today victors don’t just writes the history, they film the propaganda. And so the narrative of empire permeates all of its blockbusters, and lubricates actual block-busting of human homes. And we sit in the cinema and clap along. But not me. Not no more. I’m with the villains now.