Act of Valor opened last weekend to an enthusiastic response from moviegoers–it topped all films with a $24.5 million gross–but a less enthusiastic reaction from liberal critics and pundits. A common theme was that Act of Valor is propaganda. Thus, the Washington Post headlined: “‘Act of Valor’ with real-life SEALs: new breed of war movie or propaganda?” Ann Hornaday wrote:
But the surprising, if not unprecedented, use of so many active-duty military personnel, as well as the filmmakers’ embedded access to training missions and material (including a nuclear submarine) have put Act of Valor in the crosshairs of critics who question whether the movie crosses the line between entertainment and propaganda, and whether the military should be in the movie business at all.
Ms. Hornaday’s article contains a number of howlers–I love her reference to “the Obama era of surgical warfare”–but she was far from the only one to float the idea that Act of Valor is propaganda. Other liberals have called the movie a poor act of military propaganda, A display of heroism or American propaganda? a flashy piece of propaganda, Hollywood war propaganda, and the Pentagon’s amnesia-inducing propaganda. We could go on and on, but let’s close with this one: “Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast is asking whether Act of Valor is propaganda.”
Well, the movie is certainly pro-SEALs. Whether that makes it propaganda, you can decide for yourself. What is funny about this, however, is that quite a few movies have been made about post-September 11 warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Virtually every one of them has been shameless propaganda. You probably didn’t see them–hardly anyone did, for the most part–so let’s call the roll of shame: Fahrenheit 9/11, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, Why We Fight, Homecoming, The War Within, Lions For Lambs, Stop Loss, Redacted, No End In Sight, The Kingdom,Home of the Brave. No doubt I’ve missed a few. These films were anti-war, anti-military propaganda. Audiences avoided them like the plague, but the Washington Post had no problem with anti-war propaganda, nor did any of the critics, pundits or news outlets linked above.
Countless anti-military movies can be made, and continue to be made, even though their backers must know that they are destined to lose money. But if they are countered by a single pro-military movie, liberals get out their cloves of garlic and crosses–no, wait, just the garlic–and try to ward off the evil spirit of “propaganda.” It is a humorous phenomenon, but not one that will influence American moviegoers in the slightest.