Director George Lucas and Hayden Christensen smile before the premiere of "Episode III" at Cannes.
CANNES, France For some Europeans, George Lucas' latest "Star Wars" film is invoking comparisons to today's political climate.Well, let me just say that the Europeans at Cannes have it wrong. All Six Episodes of Star Wars were written over 20 years ago, and were not intended to have political relevance in the current day. George Lucas himself has come forward to underscore this point, according to an Entertainment Reporter I heard on Geraldo Rivera's Fox News program yesterday, and apparently he stated that the theme behind the first three episodes of Star Wars is actually the Vietnam War, not Iraq. Darth Vader is not George W. Bush, he is far more likely to be modeled on Nixon-era thug, G. Gordon Liddy, but unfortunately Lucas is a terribly hackneyed writer of shallow cliched dialogue. He is not being clever, it's simply an unhappy coincidence that he shares this tendency for mindlessly simplistic statements with our current President.
Audiences viewing "Episode Three -- Revenge of the Sith" at the Cannes Film Festival are comparing the story of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering to President Bush's war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.
Among the lines they cite is when Anakin tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy." After the Nine-Eleven attacks, Bush said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Movie conincidences of this type, where life has began to immitate fiction, are far more prevelent than most of us would think.
Wag the Dog
Many would like to point to the 1998 film such as Wag The Dog, as one that was precient on political matters. When that film was released, it was just months before the explosion of the Monica Lewinski Scandal, and many argueents where made at the time that President Clinton's 1998 cruise-missle attack on al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan were simply an attempt to deflect attention from his own problems - but even though there was an uncanny similarity between the barret-wearing "Firefly Girl" from the film and Monica's appearance on the rope line - nothing could be further from the truth : Monica was a consenting adult, while al-Qaeda and Osami Bin Laden were not a fabrication they were and are very real.
Fiction: A President in the midst of re-election and facing serious allegations of impropriety hires a "fixer" to help bring his campaign back on track by creating false news reports. In order to accomplish this they hire a Hollywood producer to package and market the story that they need to sell, including using staged and falsified press footage.
Fact: During the 2004 election a supposed "independent group" of former Vietnam Vets claims that Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry did not truly earn his War Medals, and made false claims of attrocities commited by U.S. Soldiers - yet, they can not produce not a single peice of documentation that supports their claims, and transcripts from Kerry's testimony before U.S. Senate contrast vastly with their account.
During the past few months, there have been a series of commentators who have apparently been paid by the Bush Administration to promote its policies - including Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher - they have their own phony-journalists such as Jeff Gannon/James Guckert - but even more striking have been the pre-packaging of adminstration press releases as actual news without any indication that this information and footage was generated entirely by the government and staged.
Fiction: In the 1976 film Network, the News becomes currupted by sensationalism, personal charisma and Pseudo-Reality TV. For example, a young up and coming TV producer strikes a deal to film the crimes and neo-terrorist attacks of a group of communist thugs live - using "free speach", non-disclosure and intellectual property arguements restrict access and information to law enforcment who simply wish to stop the violence.
Fact: The rise of news/commentator/pundits such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Tv Shows such as Cops., America's Greatest Police Chases, The live broadcasts of police chases ending in Suicide (by shotgun on the top of the Four-Level Interchange in downtown LA), and police firing 124 shots into the car in Compton. Terri Schiavo, The Runaway Bride -- all of whom exploit and sensationalize trivia and tragedy into "journalism", while actual news stories go unreported.
Fiction: In the 2002 film Sum of All Fears (which was based on the 1991 Tom Clancy book), a young CIA analyst digs hard at the truth under incredible pressure and based on the facts as well as his own gut determines that an attack on U.S. soil that devestates a major U.S. city (Baltimore), was not the work of a foreign leader (President Zorkin of Russia) - and risks his career in a fight against stubborn and dogmatic superiors in order to avert an unneccesary and wasteful war. When he attempts to contact the President after the attack, he is cut-off - "Oh, it's you Dr. Ryan - the Zorkin apologist", and the phone is hung up on him while the U.S. President rushes headlong into a nuclear war with Russia. In the end, it turns out that the attack was from a set of independant neo-nazi terrorist group, not a foreign nation.
Fact: Starting in January of 2001, NSA Counter-terrorism head Richard Clarke, strives against an incredibly resistant Bush Administration to alert them to the danger of al Qaeda and Osama Bin Ladin. He is ignored. When the 9/11 attacks happens, Clarke and his staff - using a simple FBI check of the passenger list against known terrorists - have already determined that it is an al Qaeda attack before WTC2 has even begun to collapse, yet when he faces resistance from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz he is told "It was too sophisticated and complicated an operation for a terrorist group to have pulled off by itself, without a state sponsor - Iraq must have been helping them."
In 2003, the U.S. goes to War with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, claiming among other things that "Saddam had significant ties to al Qaeda and the attacks against the U.S. on 9/11".
Fiction: In the 1998 film The Siege, a suiciding bombing by a terrorist cell operating inside the U.S. occurs in the streets of New York. This eventually prompts the declaration of Martial Law within the confines of the city. Young muslim men are randomly arrested and coralled into a makeshift camps in the middle of a football stadium, a potential key witness is tortured by the military commander (General Devereaux/Bruce Willis), and eventually murdered without providing any useful information. An FBI agent who witnessed the torture (Agent Hubbard/Denzel Washington) - finds the sitation completely unacceptable and takes action.
Fact: In an effort to battle the growing insurgency following the "End of major combat operations", American soldiers began randomly rounding up combat-age Arab men from all over Iraq ("possibles") and holding them in make-shift pens and cages at Abu Ghraib prison. Similar to previous detainee treatment at Guantanemo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan - torture, including stress positions, electrical shock and water-boarding were used. Some detainees have died in custody under circumstances that appear to be homocide.
According the Human Rights Watch:
“General Sanchez [the former top U.S. commander in Iraq] gave the troops at Abu Ghraib the green light to use dogs to terrorize detainees, and they did, and we know what happened, said [special counsel Reed] Brody. “And while mayhem went on under his nose for three months, Sanchez didn’t step in to halt it.”Again, paralleling the film, it's been largely because of FBI Documents that we are even aware of these events.
This list of films is just off the top of my head, but the sad parts is that I'm sure there are more examples. At any rate - I highly recommend all of these films even to those who are far less politically minded.