If someone locates my facebook profile, they will find a list of movies that includes "Airplane!" and the highly popular "Naked Gun" trilogy, all by the famous brothers Jerry and David Zucker. The classic spoofs have mocked movies and popular culture to my delight for years. This year, David Zucker, having had a political conversion of sorts, made a movie all neoconservatives and fervent war supporters are sure to love, “An American Carol.”
Responding to left-wing antiwar movies “Rendition” and “Redacted” that American soldiers were nothing more than murderers and that the whole War on Terror is nothing more than a crock, “An American Carol” sets to portray American soldiers as noble warriors volunteering out of selfless service to country and a burning obligation to defend freedom.
Kevin Farley, a lovable blob like his late brother, plays the fictitious Michael Malone, a character obviously based on socialist filmmaker Michael Moore, and a character whose only ambition is to see the United States dismantled. Kelsey Grammer breaks out of his Frasier Crane role to play the ghost of General George S. Patton. Through his airy portrayal, the audience is expected to believe that the dead Patton is even more “all-war all-the-time” than the live one. Together, the odd couple travels through history, a la “A Christmas Carol” to see how war has been used for good.
The central message of the movie seems to be that all wars are good as long as they are waged by the United States. In it, there is a sophomoric re-enactment of the infamous Munich peace conference of 1938 where that blundering idiot of a British prime minister Neville Chamberlain signed over the Sudetenland to Hitler, thus sealing the West’s fate by helping the Austrian corporal launch World War II. This comic book version of the events of 1938 is enhanced by the presence of the Japanese at the European peace conference, presupposing that like all wars, the nefarious henchmen are all united against everything that is good and free, i.e. the United States. It reminds one of President Bush’s now-infamous “Axis of Evil” speech in 2002, where he named Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as state sponsors of terror determined to threaten the United States, as if they were all united in a 3-headed monster of evil.
Back to the fake Munich: the point of this charade was to tell the audience that even talking to a potential adversary is tantamount to surrender, a classic neoconservative argument. And if you talk to that opponent, then expect them to become a genocidal maniac who will wage war on as many continents as possible.
On a note of history, the British probably could not have cared less whether ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia lived under German rule or Czech. The Munich conference was anti-climactic: war in Europe was probably already an inevitability once Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in 1935 with no resistance, not when the Czech Germans were signed over to Hitler. And if anyone cares, the Japanese were thousands of miles from Munich.
Just as ludicrous was the characters' trip to a southern plantation where, in a world where there had been no Civil War, slavery still existed and the South’s “peculiar institution” still thrived. Never mind the fact that slavery vanished everywhere else in the West through gradual emancipation, not through bloody wars. The audience is supposed to believe that despite all the modernization and industrialization of the North, chained humans would be still be picking cotton to this day. Here is where the neocons’ undying devotion to Lincoln shines through: the ill of slavery could only be accomplished by war and no one can question the methods Lincoln used to bring them about. Today, the neocons impress upon the country that the president has unquestionable authority to fight terrorists and that the only way to defeat a network of terrorists not tied to a country is to invade and make war on countries we don’t like.
But perhaps the most unconscionable scene of the movie was a group of soldiers about to be deployed, who were all praying. I do not contest a soldier’s right to pray, but the scene presupposes that American soldiers are on a divinely ordained mission to bring democracy to the Middle East. They may as well have opened up the Bible and said that salvation comes through the United States.
The prayer scene also smacks of emptiness because in it, the soldiers are supposedly praying for their own protection in battle. But in war, there is an unavoidable atrocity known as “collateral damage,” which is what happens when unintended targets, oftentimes civilians, get caught in the bombing of a strategic target. It is unfortunate and every war has to deal with it. What is unconscionable is the indifference many in our country have for it. Many Christians in this country think of our country’s venture into Iraq as a divine mission or that George W. Bush was ordained to become our president. War is a spiritual experience in this flick which is unsurprising since war is the chief article of the neoconservative faith. If there should be any praying done in war, my unsolicited opinion suggests it should be for its speedy conclusion, for one’s own protection, and for the protection of innocents. It rings hollow when Christians wail over the atrocity of abortion but are strangely silent when fellow innocents unjustly die in war.
Regarding all this cynicism spewing from my keyboard, someone might be wondering, why all this fuss over a movie? The Zuckers’ lampooned airplane disaster movies in the early 1980’s to the delight of many. Why is this movie any different? It is different because the issue of the movie is an always hot political topic: war. The other Zucker movies have been light-hearted and even a little political. In the second “Naked Gun” movie (“Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear) President George H. W. Bush is portrayed as a bumbling fool and all the surrounding special interest groups are only concerned with destroying the environment. Since the early 1990’s, David Zucker has had some sort of conversion to the mainstream Right where war is the only answer.
There is still some slapstick humor, but it is forced and it gets clouded over by the political tones. The other Zucker movies are completely unserious and are a distraction from the trials of reality. Therefore it made laughing at this movie a little more strained because it took the matter of war so lightly. Yes, it was still a moderately funny movie but not the side-splitting one expects from previous Zucker flicks.
In this blog, much has been written about neoconservatives, their glorification of war, and their constant need for it. There are books one could read about neoconservatives, but watching “An American Carol” is a good introduction to the propaganda of their worldview without all of the hassle of actually reading.