Popular Revolts in
Hollywood Films: From
the Carrot to the Stick?
By Sherihan Almuniri
Many people interpret the similarities between films and current events as proof that the Arab Spring was a U.S. conspiracy orchestrated some time ago. According to this opinion, those films were made as "simulation programs" for arousing people and pushing them to revolt against their rulers.
Translated By Emily Bolton
23 October 2012
Edited by Hana Livingston
Egypt - Moheet - Original Article (Arabic)
What we always see and follow in American films, with all their precision and impressiveness, are the meaningful and varied stories. These are often aimed, either directly or indirectly, at some issue or hot topic. Occasionally, almost in an accidental way, the films are able to predict events. Sometimes the films have other analytical functions – perhaps finding solutions to complex problems or effectively spreading pointed messages. This is not a typical way to perceive these films. Yet Hollywood has the tremendous ability to use any means of modern technology, and they use it well, in addition to spending huge budgets to create such dazzling productions.
The Arab revolutions have been followed by significant discussion of certain films, comparing them to events in our country. Many people interpret the similarities between the films and current events as proof that the Arab Spring was a U.S. conspiracy orchestrated some time ago. According to this opinion, those films were made as “simulation programs” for arousing people and pushing them to revolt against their rulers.
These analyses are, of course, nonsensical. Those who look deeper find that most of the films are inspired by novels written several years ago. The display in recent years has only been an update of films offering the same stories and opinions as always. The only novelties are the achievements of graphics, optical illusions, sound effects, and sometimes 3D technology. High demand for these techniques earns the filmmakers significant profits.
An example is the movie “V for Vendetta,” which is often interpreted from just one perspective: as a call for anarchist thought in support of the principles of individual liberty, ending power in all forms, and relying on collective cooperation between individuals. Anarchists or so-called anarchists believe that the universe was created from chaos, and thus appropriate and successful regulations can come from similar chaos. This is why many of those who follow the events of the Arab revolutions, especially in Egypt, have described the rebels as anarchists who are carrying out a project of creative chaos, as organized by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. However, there is another interpretation that these people did not notice. “V for Vendetta” is a fictional film based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore.
Set in London, the film is about “V” – a euphemism for the desire for revenge – a mysterious figure who wears a smiling mask throughout the film. “V” seeks to change the political reality of the country through revenge against the existing regime and its icons.
The beginning of the film narrates the true history of a group of young Catholics’ plan to end the regime of King James I by destroying the Parliament building on Nov. 5, 1605. The operation, called the “Gunpowder Plot,” is known as an attempt by a group of rebels to overthrow the king. The most famous of those rebels was Guy Fawkes. The failure of his plan is celebrated annually on Nov. 5 at Westminster Palace. Incidentally, “V” dresses as Guy Fawkes; rather than emphasize “vendetta” as would be expected for a character known as “V,” the film’s creator has “V” assume Guy Fawkes as a sort of pseudonym. I do not think anyone would disagree with a speech made in the film: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Some comparisons between Alan Moore’s graphic novel and George Orwell’s novel “1984” are worth mentioning. Orwell’s “1984” was quoted in the film “Equilibrium” (2002), a philosophical science fiction movie. The main point here is that the two films – “V for Vendetta” and “Equilibrium” – are similar to a large extent, although with some differences.
Another much-discussed example is “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011). In that film, those revolting are a group of young people, which some view as a blatant example of our revolution. They say it is a hidden method of exporting the American plan to the Arab peoples. Although this film has roots from years ago, the basic principle begins with the first part of the series, which was produced in 1968. That production was based on the novel “The Planet of the Apes,” written by French (not American) author Pierre Boulle in 1963.
Due to the success and popularity of the film, attempts were made to present it in different ways, as with “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970), followed by “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971), “The Planet of the Apes” (1972) and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” (1973). A short series was produced in 1974 offering the same ideas as the previous works, but it was unsuccessful. In 1975 it was again presented as a series, this time as a cartoon, but was again unsuccessful.
It was not until 2011 that the first film was remade with similar content and with some ideas from part five of the previous series. The story begins with the emergence of the monkeys and their high level of intelligence, and it features a character who is, in my opinion, a wonderful humanitarian. It presents the notion of animals being detained in testing labs, but in service of noble goals such as finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This creates a difficult paradox.
I believe the film’s events came naturally. The monkeys’ revolution was an inevitable result of their humiliation and subjugation, the reason for which they could not understand. The film has many important messages, the most important being that every tyrant’s end will come, with penalty. This message is delivered at the end of the film when Jacob, the owner of the company that was testing the monkeys, is defeated. Another important message is the idea of strength in unity. This is seen when the monkeys defeat their abusive conditions only after Caesar, their leader, manages to unite them for the insurgency and the goal of finding their natural environment, the jungle. Finally, it is important to note that the monkeys’ revolution in the film was aimed at overthrowing all those who disagreed with them and at their desire to take revenge on everyone (if you disagree, you should re-watch the film more closely). The monkeys retaliated against the owner of the company who deliberately and grossly abused them merely for fame and financial gain. But Caesar loved the world of Will Rodman and defended him and his father throughout the events of the film, despite the fact that the young Jacob was a key member of the company and was in charge of every successful experiment in the lab. The difference lies in the treatment method: Rodman cared for the monkeys and even adopted Caesar as a baby after Caesar lost his mother in a laboratory accident at the beginning of the film. By the way, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is expected to be completed and released in 2012.
If we argue that the aforementioned films were prepared as a proactive plan for the Arab Spring revolutions, what about the film I saw this year, “The Dark Knight Rises”? Did you know we were fighting Batman in this instance? As fans of the Batman film series know very well, Batman is always fighting evil and he often wins at the end of each film. Do you know what evil Batman overcame in the most recent film?
In the latest film, Batman triumphed against Bane. Bane wanted to destroy Gotham City using any means necessary, including violence. The most serious method was a nuclear bomb threat, with the help of Talia al Ghoul who, along with her father, was instrumental in implementing the plan. Bane’s last speech was striking with the message: We will take the corruption out of Gotham! The oppressors! The rich! And we will bring it back again to you, the people, as Gotham is for you. And no one will be able to intervene in your affairs again. And we will begin to capture “Blackgate” to liberate the wronged and oppressed. The army will be overthrown and the powerful will be disarmed, unable to hide in their collapsing dens. We will drive them into the cold world that we have known throughout their rule, in which we have endured and suffered. We will hold trials! But we will keep the police in order to learn the service of real justice. Thus, our great city of Gotham will live!
If we continue linking Hollywood films to what is happening in our countries, we can see four film scenarios that all suggest that America is retreating from supporting popular revolts and is showing the consequences and dangers that arise from terrorism and killings, which thus similarly terrorize the people they are meant to help. Or they suggest that America has begun to see the importance of developing its mental and physical abilities rather than waging war as a result of dependence on modern technology, especially after the losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way that Batman relied more on the mind, will, and physical force in the recent film than he did in previous films, Hollywood is predicting America’s victory over Iran by crushing its missiles and other projects along with any intention to make nuclear weapons. But these scenarios are common in films and only highlight our need to analyze Hollywood films politically. The trend in filmmaking is to showcase heroes and other characters without really enjoying the real messages of the film, which are often logical. Fictional characters like Batman, Super Man, Spider-Man, Iron Man, etc. have also appeared in films written by Bob Kane and Bill Finger between 1939 and 1943.
Everything happening in modern films is in line with the changes of the times and the creativity of new writers, who must prove their merit and potential for innovation. In regard to the theory that all legendary figures or fictional films are symbols in Hollywood intended to mean something else, I bring up “The Avengers,” released last May. In that film, an allied group of heroes and fictional characters join together to fight a space invasion. This must be an indication that we are on the cusp of war with extraterrestrials, or perhaps a metaphor for World War III!!
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