Cruel Intentions

Art & Lit Screen

Picture the film: a heroic band of Waffen SS decide to make a stand in a remote valley, their slavering, degenerate enemies the Asiatic hordes of Russia.

Our brave heroes give as good as they get and the audience is treated to the most visceral and exaggerated violence imaginable as our Aryan supermen cut down the hated foe.

But alas – the Nazis are defeated, ending the world’s last hope for democracy and freedom.

That film was never (and I bloody hope never will be) made.

Instead we have 300, which, at face value is about the brave Spartan Greeks defeating the autocratic Persian Empire and saving democracy from being strangled in its cradle.

The unfortunate message behind 300, when one looks at the incredibly militaristic, Fascistic and theocratic Spartan society, is that white people and heterosexuals are amazing, as they defeat the tan/black bisexual Persians with their phallic spears. Good, clean fun.

On the subject of white heterosexuals, Independence Day has a multilayered hidden message. At first, it’s all a bit troublesome: in ID4, every character who transgresses narrow American social boundaries ends up dead.

The only gay character dies early on; the career woman is killed; the crazy man vindicates himself by defeating the aliens but does so by taking his own life; and the two teenage characters, minutes from death, who are about to spend their last moments making love decide they should remain virgins because… well, because.

So far, Independence Day appears to be a reactionary love-in, a status-quo advocator supreme. And yet, tucked away behind all that is a very subtle message of the meaninglessness of all distinctions.

Essentially, what Independence Day suggests is that mankind is doomed until it bands together – we even see Israeli and Arab pilots serving alongside each other in a tiny, two second scene.

Given that this is a 1996 film from a country which fanatically supports the Israeli government… well, gosh.

Then there’s the President’s speech, which has two nicely internationalist gems in it: “We can’t be consumed by our petty differences,” followed by his insistence that Independence Day is “no longer [to be known as] an American holiday.”

For a bit of jingoistic explosion-porn, this is, well, quite nice. And the trend of unintentional subtext isn’t just limited to action movies — American Pie, for example, for a piece of smutty, poo-laden sex comedy, does eventually seem to take quite an ambivalent view of sex by the end. Another bit of good old fashioned conservatism, perhaps.

The pathetic Star Wars prequels teach us that democracy is flawed and can best be defended by a militarised religious order.

Gladiator taught us that you can murder as manny innocents as you want as long as this allows you to get revenge against the one person guilty of a crime against you.

And let’s not forget that modern masterpiece, Twilight, which preaches to its tweenie audience that sex will kill you and that you should seek out the whitest Mormons within reach.