Reaganite Cinema – Hollywood Propaganda or Clever Social Critique?
In the difficult times of Cold War, Hollywood produced a number of action films, all of which shared similar narrative patterns – American hero arises and defeats the evil empire of Soviet Union (whether literally or figuratively). The films like Rocky IV, Rambo III and Red Dawn are considered the striking examples. As Stephen Prince notes in his book: “...all of the others (Reaganite cinema films) pursue as well the great themes of Reaganera foreign policy: the weakness of the United States in the international arena, the viciousness of the Soviet Union and its allies, and the need for resurgent American military power and Pax Americana.” The general assumption is that these films are right-wing, hyper-patriotic and were supposed to justify the American foreign policy, at the time. I would like to argue these assumptions and propose that these films offer at least an ambiguous look at the American society and foreign policy of the time. I will use Rambo III, one of the most prominent films of the Reaganite cinema, as an example. I will also reference some other films of the era. The plot of Rambo III is rather simple. Rambo, a Vietnam veteran, is now living in a monastery in Thailand, among the monks. When his old commander Trautman comes to persuade him to go to Afghanistan with him and fight the Russian invaders, he initially refuses. Only when Trautman is captured, Rambo agrees to go to Afghanistan and rescue him. According to Prince: “The ridiculous images of the muscular, warlike Rambo living among the Buddhist monks become a satiric symbol for the recent past, a metaphor for the U.S. stance of international disengagement during the Carter period.” This allegory may seem tempting; however, the meaning may be somewhat different. John Rambo, man betrayed by the authorities in “First Blood Part 1”, betrayed by his own country in “First Blood Part 2”, certainly isn’t a first choice for typical American hero. The image of muscular Rambo in Thai monastery surely seems ridiculous, but cannot we also suppose that Rambo actually is better off living a quiet life with the monks? The very fact that he decides to flee the United States in order to find some peace in his life can tell us a lot. Surely, he cannot deny his nature completely, so he participates in street fights, but he uses the money he earns in them for a good cause, helping the monks. Another logical argument to support Princes statement might be that it of course is more comfortable to stay idle and ignore the problems around you, just like the United States did during the Carter era, just like Rambo does in Thailand, but in the end, one must always rise and do what is right, just like the United States did during the Reagan era and just like Rambo did in Afghanistan. Or did he. Yes, Rambo does go to Afghanistan, but not initially. Only when Trautman, the only person who every did anything nice for him, a father figure of a sort, is captured by the Russians, Rambo decides to go, or has to go, to be more precise. There is no other way for him, he must save his hero, his “father”. This could implicate, on one hand, how important the traditional American values (friendship or family in this case) are for Rambo, but on the other hand this doesn’t really implicate anything positive about the United States policy, which leaves Trautman to his own fate in Russian captivity and has to count on Rambo to save him, in a nearly suicidal mission. As New York Times journalist Janet Maslin noted in her review of Rambo III: “Rambo III'' is dedicated ''to the gallant people of Afghanistan,'' and it clearly intends that its politics be taken seriously. The plot sends Rambo into Afghanistan on a rescue mission after Trautman, who has been educating Afghan freedom fighters in the ways of Stinger missiles and is taken prisoner by a smirking, strutting Soviet colonel (Marc de...
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