How does the army control its Hollywood image? (VIDEO)
In this “Pop Quiz” segment, Newsy’s “In The Loop” delves into the military’s relationship and influence with Hollywood movie studios.
The highly anticipated “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres May 27, 36 years after the original film.
There was a sequel in the works in the early 90s after the original movie was a huge hit, but Paramount shelved it because the US Navy didn’t want it to happen, putting it on hold for ages. decades.
This situation highlights the US military’s long and complex history with Hollywood and indicates their closer partnership than one might think.
Today’s “Pop Quiz” question asks: How does the military control its Hollywood image?
The relationship between Hollywood and the US military dates back to the early 1900s with air shows or films about the First World War. Supplements.
Things started to get more official after World War II, when the Department of Defense set up its Film Liaison Office – primarily to work with film and television producers to manage the image of the military by through entertainment. This relationship continues today: the DoD will help productions at a greatly reduced rate, as long as they have a say in how they appear on screen.
“So basically when a filmmaker comes into the military and says, ‘You know, we’re interested in using your equipment; we’re interested in partnering with you,” the Pentagon will say, “That sounds promising, but let me see your script,” said Tricia Jenkins, professor of film, television, and digital media at Texas Christian University. . “And they’ll go through the script and literally read it line by line, taking notes, saying, ‘We don’t like the look of the military on page 16. If you want our tank, you’re going to have to change page 16 .'”
“We discovered maybe 2,500 different movies and TV shows, and that’s just the TV titles,” said Tom Secker, investigative reporter and co-producer of “Theatres of War.” “So this should give you the impression that it’s not just a war movie here, a documentary there. It’s everything from sci-fi to reality TV , to game shows and sporting events. Literally every aspect of entertainment culture that you can think of at any given time will have been assisted and aided by the military.”
Although the DoD does not publicize this relationship widely, it is no secret. They usually emphasize the intent to help accurately or be educational, and their level of control over the story can be minimized.
Take “Jurassic Park III” for example: after reviewing the script, a few of the Pentagon’s requests involved not using their A-10 aircraft against flying dinosaurs because they might cause the public to feel sorry for them and asked if they could have a “good military rescue” at the end. The studio agreed and the Marines showed up.
So, are these demands about accuracy? Maybe not, but they make the US military look good.
As the DoD Liaison wrote in a memo, there are actually three main criteria that merit Army support: Is it genuine? Does it inform the public? And does it help with recruitment and retention?
“So the United States doesn’t have compulsory military service,” Jenkins said. “We operate on a voluntary basis, and obviously joining the military, especially in times of war, can be a dangerous occupation. So one of the ways they work to train recruits is basically using Hollywood films and to glorify soldiers and military service and the excitement of combat, while minimizing its psychological and physical cost.”
Now let’s move on to “Top Gun”.
Paramount’s blockbuster premiered in 1986, what Time Magazine at the time called “a 110-minute Navy commercial.” It was such an effective recruiting tool that the military set up information and registration tables in movie theaters. Applications for the Navy flight program skyrocketed 500% after the film, and even the Air Force – which isn’t really related to the film – got a big boost.
“And then ‘Top Gun’ comes along, which is a very different kind of movie because there’s hardly any combat, there’s hardly any combat,” Secker said. “But almost all the characters in the movie are from the military, so it was a godsend for them. In their own documents, they said it rehabilitated the image of the military, which had been ravaged by the Vietnam War.”
The 80s and 90s were an extremely successful time for the military-Hollywood partnership. A few years after “Top Gun”, Paramount Pictures offered to run a Navy commercial at the beginning of each VHS tape for “The Hunt For Red October” and “Flight of the Intruder”. In an assessment by the Army Benchmark Commercial Production House, a VP noted, “…to add a recruiting commercial on top of what is already a two-hour recruiting commercial is redundant. “
Now, let’s remember that the Pentagon’s involvement in Hollywood wasn’t just to glorify the military; it was also about minimizing less desirable subjects, and sometimes even limiting the damage.
Some topics, called “showstoppers,” will get an immediate rejection of Pentagon support, such as veteran suicide, veterans with mental health or addiction issues, abuse from superiors, or sexual harassment and assault.
That’s part of the reason “Top Gun: Maverick” took decades to finally be produced. A few years after the original film, the military was embroiled in a massive sexual assault case known as the Tailhook Scandal. The Congressional investigation even flagged “Top Gun” as a possible influence for its depiction of sex in the film. The Pentagon stepped in to prevent the sequel from happening, lest people associate the franchise with the scandal.
Because the cost of making movies can be prohibitive without DoD support, dozens of movies have never been made. For example, after the Pentagon refused to support a big-budget action movie “Countermeasures”, the team even turned to the Spanish Navy to try to request an aircraft carrier, which was essential to the plot. But after hearing that the Pentagon had refused them, the Spanish Navy also refused.
It’s also important to remember the context in which you may see something, especially because its message can have massive consequences.
“The U.S. military wants to convince people that militarized violence is generally the best answer or solution to global problems, and that the U.S. military is always a benevolent force in world affairs, and that its violence is always right,” said Jenkins. “And again, that helps normalize warfare and leads us to decisions that cost them dearly.”
So while all of these movies and shows are basically some kind of military propaganda, a lot of stuff in the media is technically “propaganda” because they have some kind of message they want to show people.
What matters when watching movies like “Top Gun” is understanding the influence of the military on the story you see and the messages it conveys. It can be great when art and the media have something to say, but when that message is dishonest, doesn’t come from a clear source, or has massive cultural and geopolitical consequences, then it’s important to see that message. more critically.