In 1940, Charlie Chaplin Jr. released his first dialogue motion picture “The Great Dictator.” He played a character named Adenoid Hynkel and his likeness, right down to the mustache was that of Adolph Hitler. It was in true Chaplin form, a comedic satire, mocking Nazism. Some American politicians were offended by the dictating buffoon Chaplin portrayed in “The Great Dictator.” The buffoon was out-witting and out-lasting his reel-time enemies. The offence was not forgotten and later was rekindled and heightened during the McCarthyism era. Chaplin was accused of un-American activities and was suspected as a communism sympathizer.
A gifted story teller, director, writer and producer leaning toward the left in politics, was being spied on by the FBI keeping extensive secret files on him. Eventually tiring of the FBI pressure Chaplin announced: “Since the end of the last war I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups; I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion picture work.” He then gave up his US residence and returned to Britain.
I read a remark on this blog site recently stating US Americans make decisions based on the popular media, and I would include movies in that comment. In fact, the movie “Idiocracy” was made as a reference we are a dumbed down society where “the future will become a no brainer.” (A studio publicity quote to sum up the plot of the movie.)
In today’s political climate and President Bush’s all-time low poll rating as an effective communicator and the anti-war sentiment ever growing, some Americans argue and blame the media and movies such as directed by Michael Moore as the culprit in seducing a liberal agenda, an anti-Bush plot, and misleading and persuading US citizens in making uniformed decisions regarding quality of life issues. Moreover, religious zealots, conservative politicos, reactionary groups and traditionalists are adamant that Hollywood is another agent of misinformation and needs to clean up its act!
It is argued the movie studios have so much persuasion in our culture that we are doomed as a nation. One will read or hear about litigious parents suing a movie studio for the death of a child, “if he hadn’t seen the movie, he would never have done it.” It being an adolescent prank re-enacted from watching a movie and consequently ending in a fatality. Is Hollywood really at fault? Irresponsible parents, extreme reactionary groups and terrorists believe Hollywood is an immoral entity.
I however contest the majority of US Americans look to movies for entertainment, and not always for educational enlightenment. Since the birth of the cinematograph by the Lumiere brothers in France, in 1885, moving pictures have contributed to the world becoming a bit smaller and more connected via the pleasure of motion picture entertainment. The movie is another vehicle for telling a story, fictional or otherwise. Just as picking up a book, the reader is swept away into the author’s imagination. Even the most careful documentarian desiring an objective and truthful story will flaw, solely based on the writer’s perception and sources.
If we are to believe reactionaries and alarmists own brand of propaganda we are not capable of making intelligent, informed decisions, nor discerning reality from movie reels. Is there another censorship era in the making?
Apparently censorship has been in play from the top — the Oval Office. In today”s breaking news the former surgeon general, Richard Carmona spoke before a congressional panel that Bush administration officials would not allow him to issue reports to the public on current health issues, i.e., sex education, et al. The media uses the word “muzzled.” This is nothing but a euphemism to put less weight on the seriousness of what the Bush administration has committed: censorship.