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August 29, 2011

12:02
P.M.

25 years later, how 'Top Gun' made America love war

Total Responses: 29

About the hosts

About the host

Host: David Sirota

David Sirota

David Sirota is is a syndicated columnist, radio host and the author of “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now.”

About the topic

"Top Gun": The movie that changed the way Hollywood did war, and made Americans love it.

David Sirota chatted about how "Top Gun" made America fall in love with war, and how the military translates to Hollywood in general.

strong>Read: 25 years later, how 'Top Gun' made America love war
Q.

David Sirota :

Thanks for hosting this Washington Post chat about my recent piece on what I call the Top Gun Effect and the Military-Entertainment Complex. This came out of the extensive research I did for my recent book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." I'm ready for any of your questions - so (figuratively!) fire away!

Q.

The Current Era

Are we re-entering a new TOP GUN era, where war movies will be more patriotic, more like recruiting commercials? Is there a cycle to these things?
A.
David Sirota :

Yes, I think we are. We are seeing an intensification of the Military-Entertainment Complex, both in tactics and in reach. See here for two recent examples.

– August 29, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Dangerous Trend

I think the current almost veneration of our troops is a very dangerous trend. We certainly don't want a repeat of the Vietnam experience, when strong opposition to the war translated into criticism of our troops, but the current approach obscures the fact that our troops are most certainly not "defending our rights and freedoms" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only threat to our "rights and freedoms" in in Washington, where our politicians have been pandering to every fear they can possibly exaggerate or fabricate...unlike anywhere else in the world...and have shown a willingness to undermine our rights and freedoms if it serves their politcal aims. Do you see this ever changing?
A.
David Sirota :

First, I encourage you to check out the history you refer to about the Vietnam War and the alleged demonization of our troops. A fantastic book called "The Spitting Image" explored how this myth was created - and how it was, indeed, a myth.

Second, I agree with you about the deification of our military. The men and women in the armed forces are very important public servants, just like police officers, firefighters and teachers (to name a few). But there is a danger when society and popular culture starts suggesting that military service is the single most important act of public service - especially when that suggestion comes at a time that other public servants are being so viciously denigrated. The underlying message then becomes that militarism is our most important national ethos.

– August 29, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

Anti-military bias

From the tenor of your opinion piece, it's very clear that you're not in favor of Hollywood using the military that glorifies the military. Yet, you don't explain that the military would have a vested interest in making sure it's portrayed in a positive light. You seem to imply that the military should participate in a film project even if it meant it would come off negatively. Are you simply anti-military and anything that seems to put a positive spin on the military should be forbidden even including Hollywood ask for the military's assistnace?

A.
David Sirota :

This is a rationale I often hear.  Essentially, the Pentagon and its apologists would have us believe that military officials have every right to use publicly owned hardware as a means of suffusing our pop culture with militarist propaganda. As the argument goes, it’s in the Pentagon’s institutional prerogative to defend its image, mission and "product." And this line of logic might work if the Pentagon was a private corporation. But (all jokes about Halliburton and private security contractors aside) the Defense Department is not a private corporation.

Indeed, as taboo as it might be to say it out loud, as much and often as you will get called an unpatriotic traitor for even mentioning it, it remains an indisputable fact that all those military planes and tanks and warships are funded by your and my taxpayer dollars. That makes them not the private assets of some military spinmeister - it makes them all of our property. Thus, when the government decides to grant and deny the public access to that property on the basis of a citizen’s particular political/ideological bent, it is inherently abridging that citizen’s First Amendment rights.

Journalist David Robb, author of "Operation Hollywood," explained this very real First Amendment issue succinctly in a previous interview with Mother Jones:

”The First Amendment doesn’t just give people the right to free speech; fundamentally, it prevents the government from favoring one form of speech over another. There’s a great 1995 Supreme Court case called Rosenberger v. University of Virginia that says, “Discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional. It is axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on the substantive content of the message it conveys. In the realm of private speech or expression, government regulation may not favor one speaker over another.” And yet that’s what (The Pentagon) is doing every day.”

The way to really understand why this is so unacceptable is to consider comparable examples. Imagine if, say, the Obama administration didn’t let a reporter from Fox News attend a White House press briefing. Or imagine if, say, the Bush administration didn’t let a reporter from MSNBC be part of the press pool on Air Force One. In both cases, the outrage would be obvious, and those being persecuted would rightly insist that the government has no right to grant or deny access to public property on the basis of a citizen’s particular political principles.

This isn’t to say the Pentagon can’t or shouldn’t be involved in filmmaking. But it is to echo what New York University’s J. Hoberman told the Boston Globe in 2004: "If the Pentagon wants to go into business of leasing to the movies it should be open to whomever wants to lease and can afford to. It's our Army. If you can afford the rates you should be able to rent" regardless of your political ideology or partisan affiliation.

– August 29, 2011 12:10 PM
Q.

Pentagon-Hollywood partnership

Since the Pentagon has edited Hollywood war films to aid recruitment for the military for some 25 years, how did this escape press scrutiny for some 25 yeas? Dr. Goebbels role in germany's pro-war propaganda was evident in the early 1930s and aided us in our successful World WarII. Honesty, as usual, is the best policy.
A.
David Sirota :

It's a good question, because these questions do need to be raised. I believe the Military-Entertainment Complex has escaped scrutiny because there's an incentive for both sides to keep it quiet. The Pentagon doesn't want to advertise how it uses taxpayer money to tilt the media/entertainment world  in favor of militaristic propaganda. And the media/entertainment world which is financially benefiting from that subsidy doesn't want the subsidy to end.

– August 29, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

top gun

Excellent piece. Do you think that the upcoming bin Laden film is a combination of the President's re-election strategy or the power of weapons and aerospace industry or both or neither? If it is the case, what do you plan to do given our relative national decline and severe diminishment of the small–scale economy despite growth in transnational business? Thank you.
A.
David Sirota :

I think the bin Laden film/Obama administration collaboration has more to do with the Pentagon wanting to boost recruitment numbers than it does with any one single election (though I will also agree that  the White House probably is more than happy to facilitate the cooperation).

– August 29, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

Hollywood-Military Complex

David, I'm curious...your article doesn't reference whether or not the directors/producers/writers involved with the military HAVE to be in order to get clearance for things like planes, tanks, use of uniform trademarks etc. That has been my personal experience in the non-fiction world anyway...certainly not any ideological tie. How much of Hollywood's ties to military propaganda involved Hollywood covering its legal ass?
A.
David Sirota :

In order to get access to military hardware for the purposes of photographing it, filmmakers must get Pentagon approval of their films. That approval includes approval of the script's message/story/content. Because that approval means a huge taxpayer subsidy, Hollywood has told its screenwriters to basically get the approval of the Pentagon or forget about making whatever movie you want to make. Naturally, that pressures screenwriters to produce more pro-war, pro-militarist movies.

– August 29, 2011 12:14 PM
Q.

American's Love War ...

...Because they have so little invested. As a nation we are stupid and lazy. Why is that?
A.
David Sirota :

I certainly think that it has become politically easier to initiate wars after America ended the draft. With fewer Americans facing the blood and guts consequences of war, politicians have made war seem like just a glorified video game - something that others on TV fight, but that don't have any real consequences for most Americans.

This development, though, explains why the Military-Entertainment Complex started intensifying when it did. In the post-draft 1980s, the military needed a much more aggressive recruiting strategy because it no longer could rely on conscription. One of the most effective recruiting strategies, as Top Gun proved, is propaganda shrouded as entertainment products.

– August 29, 2011 12:18 PM
Q.

"make" Americans love war

Ms. Bigelow, in an interview with the Financial Times, said that she had been searching for 25 years for a plot to show how some men just like being at war. So much for the anti-war film. She said Hurt Locker was anti-war to please Hollywood. But that goes to a larger question: I remember reading something in Homer about the greatness of war heroes. That was a few years before Top Gun. Isn't Ms. Bigelow correct: it's naturally ingrained? But where on TV--a far more pervasive medium--do you find a "pro-war" message? Isn't the standard "serious" view of returning veterans that they are damaged goods to be pitied or feared depending on the needs of the plot--even in series such as NCIS where the protagonists themselves are veterans? You neglected to mention that there have been TONS of anti-Iraq War films--all of which tanked at the box office? Don't most 'explosion" movies just attract people who like to see explosions (i.e., boys), and "message" movies attract a different kind of audience? And what sponsor of a film doesn't require whatever they supply to look good? Isn't that a good conservative argument against government involvement in the market?
A.
David Sirota :

There certainly have been some anti-war movies. But as I said in the article, for every one of these, there are dozens of pro-war, pro-militarist movies. The key here is to understand what that means. Just because a movie doesn't talk about a specific war, doesn't mean it's not pro-war or pro-militarist. The Transformers, for instance, is aggressively pro-militarist, but it's a science fiction movie.

So this is my point - while there are a smattering of anti-war/anti-militarist movies, when you think of all the films that glorify militarism and war in GENERAL (as opposed to in specific with regard to specific wars), the numbers are overpowering.

– August 29, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Video Games

I heard that the military uses video games to desensitize recruits to killing. Does the military cooperate or support game produces to sell itself? Any idea of the budget? Which games?
A.
David Sirota :

As I show in my book "Back to Our Future," the military has been intimately involved in the video game industry from its inception. Indeed, the first video games were developed in government science labs. Today, the connection is more overt - first-person shooter games like America's Army are underwritten directly by the military. Additionally, the military has pioneered Army Experience Centers - ie. huge military-themed arcade facilities in shopping malls - as a method of recruitment.

– August 29, 2011 12:22 PM
Q.

Top Gun

What a surprise. A wussy little lib takes issue with the Pentagon. What's yor next extablishment target?
A.
David Sirota :

In a country that so worships militarism and the Pentagon establishment, I see it the other way - I see asking questions of this establishment not as something "wussy" or "liberal," but as an act of courage by any citizen, regardless of their political affiliation.

– August 29, 2011 12:23 PM
Q.

Do American's love war?

If American's love war, why do the armed forces have to spend so much on advertising, enlistment bonuses, retention bonuses, and retirement pay in order to attract the 1% of th epopulation they need? The last itme I checked, even during a recession, there was not a line of willing recruits lined up outside of my local recruiting office. American's love war that someone else fights and that they do not have to pay for.
A.
David Sirota :

That's a very good point - but it's symbiotic. As I show in the article, it is precisely when Americans start souring on war and questioning militarism in general that the Military-Entertainment Complex intensifies its efforts to sell war and militarism, both for the purpose of maintaining recruitment levels and for the purpose of protecting the Pentagon's institutional prerogatives (budgets, etc.).

– August 29, 2011 12:25 PM
Q.

Influence of movies

So why did my son want to become a marine even after watching "full Metal Jacket?" Have anti-war movies had any influence? Is "top Gun" just another in the John Wayne war action flick?
A.
David Sirota :

Anti-war movies certainly have made an impact - but typically, anti-war movies are not aimed at children, whereas most pro-war/pro-militarist movies are. For every "Full Metal Jacket" that is clearly an adult, war-questioning film, there are films like Transformers or Top Gun or X-Men aimed at teenagers and designed to sanitize war as something wholly fun and exciting and safe.

– August 29, 2011 12:26 PM
Q.

Call Me Naive

I didn't see Top Gun as glorifying war. I saw it as the story of an angry young man who grows up and comes to terms with himself and as a love story. It doesn't glorify Goose's death by any means but shows the effect it has on his wife (Meg Ryan). Viper (Tom Skeritt) is a teacher & mentor, not a warmonger. I felt very much the same way about An Officer and a Gentleman and a number of other movies. I did not see nor will ever see Saving Private Ryan.
A.
David Sirota :

Top Gun may not glorify war, but it certainly glorifies the life of a Naval aviator. This is why recruitment surged right after the film's release.

– August 29, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

Changing War

How will Hollywood portray modern warfare when so much is carried out by drones, not soldiers? Shouldn't technology hypothetically decrease the drama that once was hand-to-hand combat?
A.
David Sirota :

That's a fascinating question, and one Hollywood is probably going to have to figure out. What I can say is that I have no doubt that filmmakers and Pentagon spinmeisters will come up with innovative new ways to pretend that war is fun and safe and that militarism should never be questioned.

– August 29, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Are you serious?

Oh, please ... give me a break! 1) The premise of the article is not supported - "Top Gun' (which the main actor, Tom Cruise called 'a video game') did not make Amercans love war. Where's the proof? The author takes major hits in credibility right out of the gate. 2) Does anyone seriously think the equipment the taxpayers give to the military to do their job should be available without controls and safeguards to the general public like the swing set in the local park? If he would do research, he would find numerous laws and regulations on this subject ... but wait, that would contradict his premise... how incovenient! Tell this guy to go run with scissors. 3) Another thing ... wait, I'm getting tired of trying to inject logic and maturity into such an idiotic argument.
A.
David Sirota :

There are simple ways to make sure military hardware is available to anyone who meets certain standards. But according to the Supreme Court, those standards cannot take into account a citizen's political ideology/partisan affiliation. Read the last part of this article to understand what I mean.

Either military hardware is publicly available to filmmakers or it isn't. It shouldn't be available only to filmmakers or reporters who the Pentagon agrees with.

– August 29, 2011 12:31 PM
Q.

Top Gun

Minor comment: I don't believe the change in the script to make Goose's death an ejection accident was an attempt to make the Navy look better. I read an account that the Navy adviser suggested it would be more accurate because a similar accident (pilot colliding with the cockpit canopy) had recently occurred. The movie has been discussed in the aviation press over the years, including interviews with the aviators who flew the jets. But certainly the movie was meant to make the Navy look good, and it worked.
A.
David Sirota :

I'm not so sure we can make the conclusion you are making. Less pilots crashing makes piloting look safer than it may be - which serves the Pentagon's goal of helping boost recruitment.

– August 29, 2011 12:32 PM
Q.

Pervasiveness of Message Placement

Isn't this kind of "message placement" far more pervasive then your piece depicts, and used for more than just military recruitment? I've seen General Hayden, then head of NSA, expressing pleasure at how his agency had been depicted in recent films. A major TV network had a heroic SEAL-type team explaining in David Mamet-written dialog how the Posse Comitatus Act prevented the military from doing it's best work on US soil. Films like Iron Man 2 come across as shifting away from their source material's more critical view of militarism.
A.
David Sirota :

Yes, it is more pervasive. My piece tried to look only at movies. But the Military-Entertainment Complex has its hands in everything from television, to video games to toys as well.

– August 29, 2011 12:33 PM
Q.

25 years later, how 'Top Gun' made America love war

I agree completely with Mr. Sirota's article. I feel we're just seeing the clumsy 1950's government produced anti-Red propaganda films that we saw in school, on steroids. I was part of a young social crowd that included the top gun pilots and R.O.s. The settings and overall scene was quite accurate. Troubling aspects however, included the glorification of Tom's "Maverick" character. The fact of the matter is that Top Gun was a school intended to improve pilot flying skills as a way to reduce the number of crashes in theater of combat in Vietnam. The purpose of the school was glossed over. The film also glorified a cowboy mentality that wouldn't be tolerated, and for good reason. The other was the omission of the terror felt by the pilots of night aircraft carrier landing practice, which was extremely dangerous, and of dying in combat. The military encouraged a mentality of superiority over other members of the military that was also not shown in the film. Most important to me is the question: The military is funded by taxpayer's money and therefore public property. Why in the world doesn't the film industry have unfettered access to available unclassified resources? The Pentagon's conditions aren't applied to national parks and other government property generally used in film making. There should be no strings attached, no pushing an agenda, save reimbursement to taxpayers for expenses and use of location.
A.
David Sirota :

I couldn't agree more. Either public property is available for rent by any citizen regardless of political ideology/affiliation, or it is not available to anyone. As the Supreme Court has ruled, the government cannot financially preference one form of speech over another.

– August 29, 2011 12:34 PM
Q.

Don't take their filthy lucre

There is no First Amendment issue here, and Hollywood has no more right to use military hardware because it's "publicly owned" than I have to walk into the White House and demand to use a computer to check my email because I pay taxes. If you want complete freedom of speech don't put your hand out to the government. As soon as you do you have to dance to its tune.
A.
David Sirota :

Actually, this view has been wholly refuted by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court. Journalist David Robb, author of "Operation Hollywood," explained this very real First Amendment issue succinctly in a previous interview with Mother Jones:

”The First Amendment doesn’t just give people the right to free speech; fundamentally, it prevents the government from favoring one form of speech over another. There’s a great 1995 Supreme Court case called Rosenberger v. University of Virginia that says, “Discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional. It is axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on the substantive content of the message it conveys. In the realm of private speech or expression, government regulation may not favor one speaker over another.” And yet that’s what (The Pentagon) is doing every day.”

Check the opinions in the case. It's quite clear. Angry substance-free platitudes about public property allegedly being the private domain of a government agency run explicitly counter to the basic notions of the First Amendment. That may be inconvenient to the Pentagon and its apologists like you, but it's the law.

– August 29, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Military does not necessary secure freedom or rights

It's a very difficult thing to challenge the military image because you are accused of being unpatriotic, anti-American, whatever....I've found it very hard to express opposition to the idea that the military has secured my freedom or rights. It's possible to show that some military interventions/wars have actually increased insecurity. Further, many of us earned the rights we have in this country not because of the military, but because of social movements. As a woman, the military didn't help me earn the right to vote - it was citizen action that secured that right. As late as the 70s, I might not have been able to have my own credit account if I were married. The military didn't have anything to do with changing that, either.
A.
David Sirota :

It is difficult to question the Pentagon and militarism in America, precisely because we are taught in every sphere that to question militarism is to allegedly hate America. A big purveyor of that message is pop culture.

– August 29, 2011 12:37 PM
Q.

Military approval

Since the US allowing the use of an F-15 or other military hardware would be pronounced as an endorsement, shouldn't there be some approval required, at least to fix basic errors like ranks?
A.
David Sirota :

Ostensibly, that's what the Pentagon's film office is supposed to be for. It was never supposed to become a censorship operation - it was supposed to be there to offer technical assistance so that details like that were portrayed accurately. Unfortunately, the people working in the Pentagon film office have taken that mission and expanded it to censorship.

– August 29, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Pentagon open to negative images

Your premise that the Pentagon only supports projects that make it look great is fallacious. The DoD provided extensive support, to include training, aircraft, pilots and soldiers, to the production of Black Hawk Down, an episode in American military history where everything went wrong. If that movie makes you want to join the military you need your head examined.
A.
David Sirota :

The Pentagon is very explicit in how it selects films:

Strub described the approval process to Variety in 1994: “The main criteria we use is . . . how could the proposed production benefit the military . . . could it help in recruiting [and] is it in sync with present policy?”


Robert Anderson, the Navy’s Hollywood point person, put it even more clearly to PBS in 2006: “If you want full cooperation from the Navy, we have a considerable amount of power, because it’s our ships, it’s our cooperation, and until the script is in a form that we can approve, then the production doesn’t go forward.”

Put a list of Pentagon-approved films up against films the Pentagon rejected and you'll see what this means in practice.

– August 29, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Too many issues with this article to list them all...

Nothing is stopping Hollywood producers from making movies using their own props and cgi, except maybe their own greed, and I'm certainly not going to cry over that. Secondly, pro-war is not the same as pro-military. Learn the difference. Third, I'm sick of taxpayers thinking they have some inherent right to use anything that one of their pennies helped pay for. They have as much right to that as they do to assign their tax dollars to only those programs they support.
A.
David Sirota :

Again, I cite the Supreme Court, which has rejected your substance-free argument. The SCOTUS has said that the government cannot financially preference one form of private speech over another, which is what taxpayer-subsidies for pro-war films do.

– August 29, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

Deification of the Military

Interesting article, interesting book. In a historical context, do you notice a shift in this "deification" of the military in the '80's, compared to classic WWII films? Somehow there seems to be an additional component to the glorification of war that was not there previously...
A.
David Sirota :

Yes, I do see a difference. The 1980s began glorifying not just war, but militarism. Those are two different (but related) concepts. Militarism IMHO is the whole ideology that says society should be organized around worshiping the military and military action. In the 1980s, pop culture began selling this. As opposed to selling the idea that war is something awful that we begrudgingly endure, it begam selling the idea that war is awesome and that militarism is our proud national ethos.

– August 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Practicing for war is fun

I think you miss a fundamental point that while war is hell, practicing for war probably is fun in the same way Ferraris are fun. Fast, dangerous machines are inherently interesting, and I'm a middle-aged mother of three who voted for Obama. I don't know what kind of anti-war movie could possibly provide that rush. Also, you can't be serious that military property should be available to anyone who can pay. That just seems insane.
A.
David Sirota :

I'm absolutely serious. Public property should either be available for rent to any citizen who can afford to rent it, or it shouldn't be availble to anyone. The idea that it's safe national security-wise to rent a tank to a pro-war filmmaker but unsane to rent the same exact tank to an anti-war filmmaker is preposterous.

If something is too sensitive to be public for national security's sake, then it's too sensitive for everyone - not just for those who oppose war.

– August 29, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

Escaping Scrutiny

I don't think it escaped scrutiny at all. In fact, the press has used it to their advantage. When "Saving Private Ryan" came out, a USA Today Pentagon reporter used the connections to arrange a private viewing with veterans from the featured division, to write a great article about the film. And certainly, movies have been made without Pentagon support--see GI Jane, for example. I don't think there's any reason why the Pentagon should provide its resources to filmmakers intent on portraying the military in a negative light. No private company would do that--why should the government?
A.
David Sirota :

Because the government is not a private company. I own it, and you own it. As I wrote today at Salon.com:


No doubt, the Pentagon and its apologists would have us believe that military officials have every right to use publicly owned hardware as a means of suffusing our pop culture with militarist propaganda. As the argument goes, it’s in the Pentagon’s institutional prerogative to defend its image, mission and "product." And this line of logic might work if the Pentagon was a private corporation. But (all jokes about Halliburton and private security contractors aside) the Defense Department is not a private corporation.

Indeed, as taboo as it might be to say it out loud, as much and often as you will get called an unpatriotic traitor for even mentioning it, it remains an indisputable fact that all those military planes and tanks and warships are funded by your and my taxpayer dollars. That makes them not the private assets of some military spinmeister - it makes them all of our property. Thus, when the government decides to grant and deny the public access to that property on the basis of a citizen’s particular political/ideological bent, it is inherently abridging that citizen’s First Amendment rights.

The way to really understand why this is so unacceptable is to consider comparable examples. Imagine if, say, the Obama administration didn’t let a reporter from Fox News attend a White House press briefing. Or imagine if, say, the Bush administration didn’t let a reporter from MSNBC be part of the press pool on Air Force One. In both cases, the outrage would be obvious, and those being persecuted would rightly insist that the government has no right to grant or deny access to public property on the basis of a citizen’s particular political principles.

This isn’t to say the Pentagon can’t or shouldn’t be involved in filmmaking. But it is to echo what New York University’s J. Hoberman told the Boston Globe in 2004: "If the Pentagon wants to go into business of leasing to the movies it should be open to whomever wants to lease and can afford to. It's our Army. If you can afford the rates you should be able to rent" regardless of your political ideology or partisan affiliation.

– August 29, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

Military-entertainment complex often conceals an awful truth

These films, video games, etc that sell war and promote the image of the noble serviceman/woman do so, I think, to help conceal an awful truth: that in many cases, the sacrifice made by our servicemen and women was pointless, or at least did not serve the purpose it was intended to serve. The US invaded Iraq ostensibly to vanquish al-Qaeda, while analysis shows that not only was al-Qaeda NOT in Iraq, the invasion helped spur a new wave of recruits and flamed anti-American sentiment. It seems the servicemembers who died trying to wipe out al-Qaeda in that case got the US no closer to its stated goal. Yet, we perpetuate the myth that everyone killed in battle helped achieve a noble goal. That's the reason we have to have these movies that re-write history and generate the idea of the hallowed soldier, the idea that military service is the greatest and most valuable sacrifice a person can make.
A.
David Sirota :

This is exactly my point - if a filmmaker wanted to make a film raising those critical questions, and requiring footage of non-sensitive Pentagon hardware, the Pentagon would probably bar access to that hardware, thus making the film almost impossible to make.

– August 29, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Platoon

So, do you think they should start showing movies like "Platoon" in high schools to deter kids from joining the military? I think that movie was a very brutal, honest look at the harsh emotional and physical tolls of war. Not a very glamorous movie like Top Gun.
A.
David Sirota :

I'm all for showing teenagers news reports and footage that actually show what being a soldier and what war is really like. This is why I'm concerned about the Military-Entertainment Complex - it forwards a fantastical and sanitized image that pretends war is something different than it is.

Incidentally, this is why I also think more news outlets in America should show real images of what war is really like - even if those images are frightening and visceral. The more we see what war is ACTUALLY like, the harder it will be to pretend that war is just a safe video game.

– August 29, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

Top Gun did make military life look great

Top Gun came out when I was in high school, and even though I knew it was not exactly a documentary, it sure made the military lifestyle look fun and challenging. I even accepted an invitation to consider the Naval Academy and spent a week on-site there in a recruitment program for high school students. A lot of the movies like that show some tragedy (Goose dies, but we all know some people die in war), but don't really give you an idea of what the military lifestyle is really like. The military chats on this site show the hardships families face and how many were unprepared for the lifestyle.
A.
David Sirota :

That's because screenplays that want to show that face the obstacle of Pentagon disapproval. And when the Pentagon disapproves of a screenplay that needs access to non-sensitive military hardware (scenes of bases, scenes of tanks, etc.) it often means the studio kills the project.

– August 29, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

David Sirota :

Thanks to everyone for the questions. They were terrific. For more on some of the issues that were raised, check out my follow-up article at Salon.com. It addresses the First Amendment issues that some of you raised, and also includes some examples of the latest initiatives from the Military-Entertainment Complex. You can also always contact me at www.davidsirota.com

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