Telling you what to think

I am sure all of us have our own classic movie favourites. Or at least, movies that we consider to be good movies, can-watch-again-sometime movies. How many times have you taken home the subtle message embedded in the movies? The inevitable summary of these messages is to tell you abour the good, the bad and the ugly.

Just after the Second World War, Germany became the bad guys on all movies. The Dirty Dozen, the Bridge over the River Kwai, The Longest Day, The Guns of Navarone: some of the best movies I've seen. You have to see them to experience the passion, fear and the joys of those times. Even at home, we had the attrocities of the British on our movies, books and plays for a long time before and after our independence. I'm not talking about the more recent movies though. Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line or Schindler's List: they were a different class of movies. These were re-takes of the horrors of the wars, because better technology permitted bringing them to more life than earlier. The ones I'm talking about are about finding the bad guys and telling people why or what made them so bad.

It is interesting to see how popular entertainment mechanisms can be used to subvert public opinion. Remember the Vietnam War. And now try to remember the movies made during that period. The bad guys were inevitably the Vietnamese. Rambo First Blood (II), Chuck Norris movies -- it was always a one-man-army who went in and took out whole regiments all by himself. And that too, in their own territory. You will see that the villians shudder at the sight of Mr. America. And as remnants of the Cold War, there would always be a Russian villian who would be in cohorts with the bad guys. I don't think I need to name the movies where the "Reds" were the bad guys. Heck they even made movies when the USA beat Russia in chess or at ice hockey!

And that brings me to the more interesting parts of the story. Rambo III, James Bond movies (such as The Living Daylights) -- remember them? The Afghans were the repressed bunch struggling against Russia, where the "freedom fighters" were helped by the US or the UK in their struggle. Guess what: the ghosts from there have come back to haunt them in real life. Suddenly the friendly Afghans or Arabs aren't so friendly any more. Think True Lies, think Iron Man. They are trying to make them the new laughing stock: the outwardly gun-toting brave men who suddenly become cowards when faced with the real tough guy. Or you need to score brownie points ahead of time for upcoming problems. North Korea creates the Icarus in the Die Another Day ("... trust me, if our radar can't see them, North Korean radar can't..."), or Batman just kidnaps the biggest business tycoon in a jiffy from China because the US government does not have jurisdiction there. Allies are formed (the US and the UK in James Bond movies), villains are made (Russia in the Cold War movies), and you get to prove that you're the best (for example, watch Van Damme's Kickboxer). Guess what, China is getting better at the game as well. Huo Yuan Jia (or Fearless, under which name it was released to the western audiences) shows a Chinese gentleman kicking a huge white man's butt.

Of late, I've become more and more sceptical of what I read and see. The media will always remain a propaganda machine, and it is up to you to find out what part of it is true. Don't you sometimes get that feeling when you read a newspaper article? Something that tells you that this seems biased or seems to be covering up some stuff. Trust that instinct; for all you know, it might just be another of those media stories planted by some government which wants to tell you what to think.

Comments

  1. Sudipta..

    Yup. I feel amdist the utter nonsense about the movie celebrities almost always media is feeding us stuff either untrue or very basic stuff from the sidelines...

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  2. Media was never freer than now. Because for a long time, Governments world wide have practically owned the media and hence fed people what they wanted to feed. Remember the earlier Soviet Union magazines we devoured as children? I used to think that the USSR is the bestest country in the world.
    However, as we grow older, we learn to distinguish the forcibly fed from the edible. Therein lies the choice.

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  3. The media is technically "free" but it chooses to shackle itself to political constraints most of the time.

    Sadly the owners of the big media houses have their own agendas which they feed through their print and electronic networks.

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  4. journalists aren't the elite, strong-headed, brave-hearted anymore. it's all about sensationalism and marketing. i wonder when we will go back to the days of true bravado and shell-shocking truth.

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  5. Mystiquedew, yeah, but they're good entertainment!

    Mampi, hey, changed image! Yeah I remember -- Russia was the good guy, and the US. And to think, I was brought up in West Bengal.

    Hari, hm... exactly.

    Galadriel, I wouldn't generalize as you do. There are still a lot left who are good enough. Remember the movie, Page 3? [God I'm still quoting from movies!]

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  6. There's no point blaming media also, they are catering to masses as usual as most of them are owned by political honchos.

    For me, movies are meant to be fun. I enjoy them rather than learning great things from it. Remember we are having Hindi films going the usual emotional way and now a days the NRI way.

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  7. Thanks for welcoming me aboard :-)
    ...And this post reminds me of George Orwell's 1984...

    Its a scary thought but plausible that what we read, what we hear from various for of media is all doctored...and we never get to know the real truth

    --Anonymoust

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  8. Hmmm I'm wondering what subtle message Ms. Congeniality has for me...

    Waise media has always been about propaganda, but I sure miss those days when news casters would deliver 'news' and not 'sansanikhez khabrein!'

    Sky

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  9. Thats why blogs rock my man. They give you information from different angles and help shape your opinions.

    //kicking a huge white man's butt.
    I think its more like 'kicking a white man's huge butt ;-)

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  10. ...which is what makes it rather ironical.

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  11. Have read few books and seen documentaries related to world war, but haven't seen any of the movies.

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  12. Very interested & curious in your name. May I know how to pronounce it? :P

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  13. Aniruddha, yeah your approach is right: we must wait and watch.

    Shrinidhi, thanks!

    Anonymous, you're more than welcome. I am telling you, it isn't a hunch -- I am sure!

    Sky, yeah I am sure you can learn a lot about congeniality :D

    Final Transit, heheheh... yeah as long as it is a connection of foot to butt, it doesn't matter which is huge :P It isn't ironical, though ;)

    BTW, welcome onboard!

    Manasa, oh you should definitely watch them -- they're good!

    Gatsby, welcome onboard! About pronouncing my name (presumably after you've read the relevant post), please try different combinations and send me a sound file: I can confirm which one to pick ;)

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  14. I felt the same after reading Micheal Crichton's 'State of Fear'

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  15. Anonymous (Manu?), yes books also have been used for a long time to form and subvert opinions if necessary. And the practice is old, really old. Read Swami Vivekananda's work as he speaks of Shankaracharya subverting passages to forcefully interpret them as advaita philosophy.

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  16. its all relevant..ive spent days thinking about how much of todays 'news and views' can be doctored not just by government but by people like Pranoy Roy just to 'do one over' the other guy. I convinced myself by saying that there arent enough smart guys in the world for that.

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  17. Neeraj, well, that is one way of looking at it. But the fact is, as one recent book that came out by the name "the man who owns the news" about Rupert Murdoch, a handful of people definitely determine what you think to a large extent.

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