Empire examines the symbiotic relationship between the movie industry and the military-industrial complex.
War is hell, but for Hollywood it has been a Godsend, providing the perfect dramatic setting against which courageous heroes win the hearts and minds of the movie going public.
The Pentagon recognizes the power of these celluloid dreams and encourages Hollywood to create heroic myths; to rewrite history to suit its own strategy and as a recruiting tool to provide a steady flow of willing young patriots for its wars.
What does Hollywood get out of this ‘deal with the devil’? Access to billions of dollars worth of military kit, from helicopters to aircraft carriers, enabling filmmakers to make bigger and more spectacular battle scenes, which in turn generate more box office revenue. Providing they accept the Pentagon’s advice, even toe the party line and show the US military in a positive light.
So is it a case of art imitating life, or a sinister force using art to influence life and death – and the public perception of both?
The American Army’s intrusion in Hollywood war films may surprise some. In fact, the U.S. Army secret services have had close ties with American filmmakers for several decades. The movie Top Gun, for instance, was filmed with the support and approval of the U.S. Army. There is even a special bureau, the Film Liaison Office, that oversees these issues for the Pentagon and the Capitol. It has a clear mission: studying the scripts of American war movies, deciding whether to offer them support or not, depending on their interest for the country’s military leaders.
Scripts are cut and sometimes watered down. Characters are changed and historical truth, sometimes fudged. One director might be loaned combat jets and ships, and all their equipment, enabling him to shoot the scenes written by his scriptwriters. Another director, whose script displeases the army, may be refused any kind of support. That was the case for the film Platoon, deemed overly critical of the Vietnam War. It is then up to the producers to look for shooting locations and equipment outside the United States. Often, at considerable cost.
In his Pentagon office, the head of the Film Liaison Office makes no secret of his goals. He wants to encourage films which flatter the U.S. Army, win support for its actions on the battle field, and encourage more soldiers to sign up. In short: pure propaganda. Few great war films have escaped the influence, or even the censure, of the U.S. Army.(Excerpt from cbc.ca)