Eagle vs. Unicorn: Fight!

It’s interesting to see examples of what Orwell meant when he said that “What English people of nearly all classes loathe from the bottom of their hearts is the swaggering officer type, the jingle of spurs and the crash of boots.” In The Power of Nightmares, there is a British officer talking about how they are going to run into Afghanistan and take prisoners, get information, destroy al-Qaeda, etc., followed by another interview with the same officer, a month later, talking about how they haven’t captured a single prisoner or killed anybody. I laughed histerically, obviously the response aimed at by the filmmaker. That kind of thing is not something you will see in an “American” film — or at least films written by Americans.

In American cinema, the Army is always the good guy, even when it isn’t. All the bad Army people are just corrupt Pentagon/establishment types out to screw the poor grunts trying to defend their country against whoever we’re supposed to hate this week. Even in Fahrenheit 9/11, after showing the faintest glimpse of the near-bottomless horror and devestation caused by the U.S. military in Iraq, the movie proceeded to spend the next hour talking about how the soldiers were getting screwed by their commanders, finally concluding with the question of whether the soldiers “will ever trust us again?” The only counter-example I can think of is Dances With Wolves, which takes places 150 years ago — a time and culture so vastly removed from our own as to be effectively another country — and I can vaguely recall claims of “anti-Americanism” for it’s portrayal of the U.S. Cavalry as the bad guys. (A recent book claims that Kevin Costner’s character was a traitor.)

I noticed that same cultural difference when comparing Reign of Fire to 28 Days Later. In the former, the brave Midwestern “townsfolk” soldiers come to England and save the world from dragons, with plenty of spur-jangling along the way. In the latter, psychotic and cowardly British Army soldiers try to gang-rape two women, and are killed for their crimes in a variety of revolting ways, mostly being eaten alive by zombies.

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