Media @ McGill

Militainment: Has Hollywood's Close Ties with the U.S. Military Gone Too Far?

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Act of Valor, a 2012 film by directors Mike McCoy and Steve Waugh aimed to break new ground in the portrayal of U.S. Navy Seals on the big screen. The film's official trailer promises a motion picutre, "unlike any before"; which is true, at least, from the perspective of "militainment" - a phrase coined to express the close relationship between Hollywood and the U.S. Department of Defense.

For one, the characters in the film are portrayed by active duty U.S. Navy Seals. Secondly, the trailer also purports that the fictional script is "based on actual U.S. Navy Seal Missions" and that "the weapons and tactics are real."

Although some may argue that a collaboration of this sort leads to a more accurate visual representation of war and military missions, the most recent episode of Al Jazeera's The Listening Post questions the validity of such a statement when the storyline is written by Hollywood scriptwriters and overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense.

"This blurring of the line between Pentagon propaganda and Hollywood has now reached the stage that we're not even sure that there is a line anymore," says Richard Gizbert, the programme's presenter. The feature film was, in fact, meant to be a short recruitment promotion - presumably with the hope of accelerating a surge in recruitment numbers known as the Top Gun Effect. The 1986 movie directed by Tony Scott was credited with a 500% increase in U.S. Air Force recruits. Films which are able to present the military as a graphic, audiovisual experience to the greater public are seen as positive propaganda that can help boost the public's view of the armed forces in a way the military's public relations office cannot.

But, that is where the moral lines of militainment become blurred. Interviewed in the program, Robin Andersen, Professor of Communications and Media Studies at Fordham University, says the film is "overlaid with all the necessities of entertainment: the tropes and the genres of the war film, which creates a whole storyline that is basically a fantasy of war. And, that's the problem. You've got something masquerading as very real, that's a fantasy of war."

To view the full episode of The Listening Post, click here.