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6 Historic Events That Shaped Entertainment
History's Influence Over Movies and TV
By Joe Oesterle
January 28, 2010
6 Historic Events That Shaped Entertainment
© Mania/Bob Trate
We’re going to talk about recent events in U.S. History in movies, but to make it palatable , we’re going to explain how the good people in Hollywood have capitalized on some of the defining moments of our relatively young country. Let’s dig right in…
After a decade of participating in a war in which half of our country believed we had no business fighting, and feeling their pleas for military withdrawal were falling on deaf ears, millions of frustrated citizens were whipped up into a fury of righteous indignation when it was reported in the early 1970s the Committee to Re-elect the President (Or C.R.E.E.P. as it was fondly and not so fondly called) had broken into the Democratic National Committee HQ.
If the slush funded break-in weren’t bad enough, when President Richard Nixon’s many detractors discovered that Tricky Dick not only knew of the high-level crime and he steadfastly covered it up they were outraged. It may have been an eternal game of political he said/he said were it not for the fact that Nixon made audiotapes implicating him in the conspiracy.
Sensing the genuine cynicism and overall “distrust of the man” Hollywood gave films like:
Soylent Green- Ol’ conservative Chuck Heston demonstrates why you should always beware of government cheese. Because it’s people.
Apocalypse Now- If you can’t trust a model officer like Colonel Kurtz; who can you trust?
All The President’s Men- Ok, this pick is right on the nose. Woodward and Bernstein with the help of the mysterious insider, “Deep Throat,” topple the most powerful man in the world, while Redford and Hoffman manage to utter the phrase, “Deep Throat” repeatedly without cracking a smile.
5. The Cuban Missile Crisis
The 14 days in October 1962 was certainly the closest this world has come to an all-out nuclear war. In the red corner, Soviet Premier Nikita “The Bear” Khrushchev placed his nervous finger on one country-destroying launch button. In the red, white and blue corner, “Smiling” Jack Kennedy had his sweaty digit on the other.
Thankfully both sides agreed to remove certain offending missiles, and a potential holocaust was averted, but not before inspiring the Tinseltown scribes to frighten audiences with tales of the certain doom that comes from having so few people in control of the destiny of so many.
The Fail Safe- As the poster shocking declared, “Fail Safe Will Have You Sitting on the Brink of Eternity.” At least the ending portrays an artfully eerie mass genocide.
Doctor Strangelove- This movie proves that the eventual annihilation of the planet by one very gung-ho military man will at least be a humorous end of days… as long as Peter Sellers plays multiple roles.
The Planet of the Apes- Seriously, we should always listen to Charlton Heston. For goodness sake, the man spoke to God. Well obviously we didn’t heed Heston’s warnings, and so after we blew the bloody planet all to hell, it is now run by the damned dirty apes. (Who ironically enough share many of the same fatally flawed political and religious disputes as their human “ancestors”).
The China Syndrome- While scientists are certain that if a nuclearreactor did indeed meltdown, gravity wouldn’t allow it to bore all the way to China. So we would never have to worry about the big hole in the middle of the Earth. We’d just have to worry about the nuclear contamination. Thank you scientists for putting our minds at ease.
The four al-Qaeda hi-jackings and subsequent suicide missions during the morning of September 11, 2001 had the entire world questioning their own security. Suddenly a country which had never experienced such devastation on its own continental soil now had to come to grips with the threat of terrorism, and the feelings of fear, paranoia and vulnerability.
War of the Worlds- This aggressive alien Spielberg film may have shocked even more people if star Tom Cruise hadn’t already turned off a number of potential movie-goers with his own stunning performance on Oprah Winfrey’s couch.
Cloverfield- This time it was a giant Statue of Liberty demolishing monster that devastates New York landmarks and frightens the populace. At least Rob and Beth will always have Coney Island.
24- Of course television as been reshaped since the tragic events of 9/11, and while most people probably secretly fear powerless against the now ever present threat of attack, we can all thank our maker for the one government worker who can be trusted to do the right thing for America–Agent Jack Bauer.
The Road- While this haunting post-apocalyptic story owes as much to the Cuban Missile Crisis as it does to the world changing events of 9/11 the themes of defenselessness and apprehension ring loud and clear.
During the “Red Scare” of the late ‘40s to the late ‘50s Senator Joseph McCarthy made a name for himself by exploiting the country’s anxiety of Communism. Evidence be damned, if Tail Gunner Joe wanted to paint you with his broad red brush, you were as good as convicted of high treason.
Thanks to Joe, Americans grew more and more distrustful of not only those who had darker skin or spoke with foreign sounding accents, citizens were now suspicious or neighbors, friends and family.
The Manchurian Candidate- If those filthy Commies are capable of brainwashing genuine battle-tested, mother-loving American heroes what chance do we as a country stand?
The Day the Earth Stood Still- In this absolute sci-fi masterpiece, after wounding our galaxy-hopping would-be benefactor, Klaatu, his trusty robot pal Gort disintegrates all weapons present without harming a single soldier. Of course this act only further proves we as a race don’t deserve a place in the galaxy. It’s actually hard to argue for our side here.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers- In a direct response to McCarthyism, this cleverly disguised bad-guys-from-outer-space movie mirrors the effects of neighbor turning on neighbor paranoia. The original ending is grim, but it’s intentionally unclear if the filmed ending is any happier.
2. The Lunar Landing
Once again, it’s us versus them. And once again, them is Russia. While many recall the space race as a good-natured competition, both sides were very eager to claim a victory in the pursuit of placing a man on the moon.
Of course this is a very broad category, but it changed the landscape of space travel from boogey men from Mars to more exploratory in terms of both adventure and thought provoking storytelling.
2001: A Space Odyssey- It’s been rightfully called the quintessential space exploration film. The special effects were light years ahead of its time, but this movie has stood the test of time because it is a cautionary tale to those who place more trust in believe technology than humanity.
The Right Stuff and Apollo 13- The true stories of the brave crew of uncertain missions. These men were not perfect, but that’s what makes the story all the more compelling.
Star Trek- Even among hard core Trekkers there is heated debate about which is the superior franchise. Is it The Original Series and the wig-wearing Shatner films spun off from there? Is it the shiny-headed Picard Next Generation or is it Kate Mugrew’s Voyager missions? Whatever the answer, if you’re a fan of the recent J.J. Abrams film, don’t say that too loudly in a crowded convention hall in San Diego, lest you run the risk of some serious Klingon stink eye.
Star Wars- If you’re reading this article, you already know enough about this topic, so let’s move on to the final category.
1. Global Warming
Whether or not you’re among those who believe the average air and sea temperature has been on a steady and possible cataclysmic rise, it still makes for good movie fodder.
Avatar- Who the hell do we think we are to mine for precious minerals on Pandora? Don’t we realize we are upsetting the delicate Pandoran ecosystem? Worse yet, do we even care about the poor native Na’vi? Klaatu would shake his head in disgust at all of us.
The Happening- Hate it like poison, or just hate it regular, M. Night Shyamalan showed us a (very unlikely) possibility of what might just happen if we continue to assume we are the most important species on this planet. (The grass and the trees will form an alliance and makes us all commit suicide.)
The Day After Tomorrow- Well if Charlton Heston is no longer here to warn of our own fatal flaws what chance does Dennis Quaid have? This film not only touches on Global Warming, but also illegal immigration (Americans unlawfully crossing into the warmer climes of Mexico.)
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About our writer: Joe Oesterle is an award-winning writer and illustrator, but what he often fails to mention is that many of those awards were won on a New Jersey boardwalk. Want to read Joe’s review of the 1982 movie “TRON?” It’s a full 29 years after the fact, but what else you got going on today? I thought so.