For weeks, I've been meaning to mention an interesting point about Hollywood and politics that I read in a piece about Contagion and The Ides of March, written by John Powers for The American Prospect:
...as Contagion goes on, you realize that it's doing something so rare as to be groundbreaking. Ever since the '60s, Hollywood has tended to treat U.S. government employees as bad guys--CIA assassins, heartless immigration officers, those mean NASA scientists who try to snatch E.T. (The great exception in recent years, of course, has been the military.) In contrast, Soderbergh's film shows how a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team headed by Laurence Fishburne, working alongside the World Health Organization (and other one-worlder sleeper cells), goes about stopping an epidemic even as the public panics, the media goes bonkers, and Big Pharma doesn't have a clue. These medical officers do what they need to do--risking, even sacrificing, their lives--in order to set things right. They don't always behave impeccably or according to protocol, but they are the good guys...It is interesting that Hollywood makes so many anti-government films given that it is supposed to have a left-wing bias. Incidentally, I found a NY Times piece making the claim that Hollywood is anti-government in 1995, so this is not a new idea.
Contagion may be the purest expression of Obamaism I've seen on-screen...Rather than revving us up with fears--Globalization is evil! A killer virus is on the loose! Inoculations are worse than the disease!--the movie plays out its scenario matter of factly. Far from laying on the Hollywood melodrama, it's detached, rational, and while highly involving, also deliberately unexciting. The phrase that comes to mind is "no drama."
Like Obama, albeit more persuasively, Contagion expresses faith in public institutions at a time when too many people want to gut them...[G]overnment can hold things together during an outbreak of a deadly virus. In case of an epidemic, the CDC can and will do more to save you than the executives at Pfizer or Merck.
The point Powers makes about war films is very important and shows how much the country has changed since the 1970s when Vietnam films often portrayed the military negatively.
The military has been the most trusted public institution annually since 1998! No wonder the US militarizes campaigns against drugs, criminal terrorism, illegal immigration, etc.
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