I love the movie Inglourious Basterds.. in fact, I love all of Tarantino’s movies. I would recommend watching all his movies. I recently re-watched it… and what is particularly interesting about this one, is the movie within the movie, Nation’s Pride.
You see, within Inglourious Basterds, you have this Nazi hero called Fredrick Zuller. He killed a bunch of Allied soldiers and of course the Nazi’s want to exploit this story for a film. In the movie, Hitler wants to use this true story as the baseline for a war propoganda movie called Nation’s Pride. The “trailer” can be seen here….
So here is the interesting part….. we can, quite easily, call this Nazi propaganda. A slightly different question we can ask ourselves, a more useful one, is what characteristics in this fake movie allow us to call it propaganda?
If we look back at our framework definition of propaganda shown in part 3, we can see how well this movie fits into that view. So lets ask some basic questions to analyze this movie as an exercise in spotting propaganda.
Is “Nation’s Pride” political or politically motivated?
It seems obviously so yes. Making a movie showing “Nazi superiority” is right in line with world war 2 propaganda we are all familiar with. The message of this movie is simple, that Nazi soldiers are superior to Allied soldiers. It conveys this message by showing scores allied soldiers fall in battle easily to an outnumbered but more tactical single Nazi soldier. The message is clear, this is a war time movie designed to showcase the courage and value of a German soldiers life, while making the lives of the allied soldiers cowardly and worthless.
Who made this movie, is it crafted by the elite players in society?
In this fictional universe Nazi propaganda is funded by major players in world war 2 – not unlike the reality of world war 2 Nazi propaganda. Here, Hitler himself and the Nazi government under his control completely funds this movie. It is just another piece of the overall war effort on his part to show Nazi Superiority to embolden German soldiers in battle.
Is this movie truthful?
According to our definition Propaganda can’t be a truthful retelling, yet in this fictional universe the events inspiring Nation’s Pride actually took place. Fredrick Zuller is a real Nazi Soldier and he did kill many allied soldiers all by himself in his snipers nest. Yet, despite being based on a true story the end product of the movie is still not a truthful retelling. During Inglourious Basterds Zuller actually stared in the movie and attended the premiere. During the premier, however, Zuller himself walked out of the movie. He walked out during the scenes were he was being depicted as the hero of heroes and where the allied soldiers appeared as mere canon fodder. Zuller himself, during the screening became uncomfortable at the mythologizing of the real life events he lives. The surrealism of the movie actually made him uncomfortable and he left the screening. The implication being that even to the man who lived through the events of the movie, it was too over the top.
This is actually pretty interesting. It actually shows us how one can take a real story, and mythologize it for the purposes of propaganda. So while it was based on a true story, the oversimplification of the events made to fit a certain Nazi narrative made it a false retelling. This is a very important point – especially when it comes to films. Propaganda in films based on wars usually do exactly that.. they take true events and twist them into a surreal retelling highlighting unrealistic expectations of heroism of soldiers while dehumanizing the enemies by trivializing their deaths on massive scale.
Finally let us ask, how would this effect the psychology of the German public on a massive scale?
Propaganda films are a really interesting phenomenon. The premise of almost all films are entertainment, and propaganda films use this premise to hide other underlying messages. One film can not do the job alone – however, if this film was just a small piece of a massive propaganda campaign than it would serve it’s purpose. If you were a Nazi soldier or German citizen in world war 2 you would quite easily be fooled by these massive propaganda campaigns. These days when we see Nazi Propaganda, we laugh, it looks so irrational that we can not imagine it convincing anyone on anything… let alone public opinion on a massive scale. Yet that is exactly what happened in real life. When you are bombarded by an education system that preaches German excellence, advertising campaigns saying Germans are clearly superior, government messages broadcaster everyday that tell the German public to take pride in it’s soldiers… then being bombarded by films like “Nation’s Pride” would, in fact, be able to cement those ideas. That amalgamated effort has an effect, and we know this simply by looking at history. In this sense, despite the fictionalized universe, we know that films of this caliber, when smashed together with other propaganda efforts, can have the effect intended.
Now, as I am reading this… I ask myself.. why does this matter? Why should we even make the effort to analyze a propaganda’s function in a fictional universe? I think it is interesting because it is so obvious to see! I mean, you don’t actually need to go into details to why this is Nazi Propaganda… every american living today can take a look at that trailer and understand instantaneously that this is a Propaganda film (forget that this is a fake trailer for a second). Within the movie Inglourious Basterds we instinctively know propaganda when we see it… we don’t even need this much analysis. Yet, and this is where it gets interesting for me… what if such an obvious thing to us, when we are looking from the outside, fails to be so obvious to us when looking at it from within? What I find interesting is the fact that.. propaganda is easy to spot when they do it, but no one spots it when we do it. Don’t believe me? Look at how laughable that trailer is in the youtube clip. Anyone who actually believed this happened must be delusional… right? Well… what if I showed you this trailer?
See that, that is the interesting part to me. Americans can easily see propaganda when it is coming from another country…. but when it is coming from our own? Nope. Very few american’s are calling this movie propaganda… in fact all I ever hear about this movie is how amazing and “true to life” it is. Which is quite an amazing feat. Humor me for a moment.. what is the difference between Nations Pride and Love Survivor… I have yet to find one functional difference between the two. We can ask the same questions and we will see we will get identical answers.
Is “Lone Survivor” politically motivated?
Oh yes, it is in fact motivated in the same exact way as Nations Pride was. You have hundreds of Afghan “terrorists” (A loaded phrase but one I will use for convenience) getting mowed down like nothing compared to a handful of highly trained courageous american soldiers. I mean, there is even a scene in the movie where, which is just laughable to me, they let some goat herder, or some kid, go…. knowing, knowing that this person is going to rat them out to the enemy combatants. Which just serves as a underlying point showing how insanely moral and courageous american soldiers are during our “war on terrorism.” A point which is laughable because we have actual footage of Soldiers gunning down entire families and testimonies showing how the soldiers care very little for civilian casualties. These shameful events are very well documented and are not isolated incidents, yet, in this movie, we are supposed to believe they are without moral failing. Again, Americans do not see the actual narrative of the moral grey area and very much like the Vietnam war, it is very much “see no evil” attitude with Americans… This movie really plays into that mantra. Back to the point, the entire point of this movie is the same as Nation’s Pride… to show, in this case, US soldier superiority, and the worthlessness of the Afghanistan enemies by mowing down. I mean, if you look at the film reviews, you can tell this had it’s intended effect.. because a large fraction of them contained diatribes of anti-arab racism and unbelievable/dangerous hero worship of american soldiers.
Let us go to the next question… Who made this movie?
Now, this movie was not in fact, as far as I can find out funded by the US government or military. It was largely based on a book the surviving soldier wrote. That is not to say that US military did not have a heavy hand in the film however. Despite not funding it, the Navy SEALS obviously helped get the movie done by either offering their services (helicopters and other military vehicles), their soldiers as extras, and notably giving advice to the actors in their portrayal of the soldiers. This obviously has a heavy impact on how the film is depicted. In that, if the film was not working to mythologize american soldiers, it probably would not have had as much help from the american military during the filming process. We will probably never know how much input the military advisers had on the film, but we can at least assume they had some influence and they used that influence to add to the mythology. A good military film is a great recruitment tool, so you can’t really blame them for that.. but their role in the film is not to be swept under the rug either. So while this was an “independent Hollywood movie” it was not free from influences of the american military – that much is certain. This would be where it parts ways a bit with Nation’s Pride, but I don’t think it is enough to separate itself from the propaganda genre.
Moving on, we ask ourselves is the movie truthful?
Much like Nations Pride, Lone Survivor being based on a real life story adds an air of legitimacy to the film. However, much like Nation’s Pride, the writer or directer taking artistic freedoms with the film lead to a mythologizing effect very much like Nations Pride. You can look it up for yourself, there are plenty of websites looking at all the historical inaccuracies of this film.. and when you do, you actually see that all the things they left out or neglected to mention has a humanizing effect on the soldiers. By not mentioning these facts, they play the same mythologizing hand. They depict these Americans as practically invulnerable, mowing down countless enemies and their worthless lives. Each American dying a huge slow motion elongated death meant to cater to our empathy. Meanwhile, each death of the enemy combatant is done in micro seconds… sending a very clear message… “We matter. They Don’t”… very much like the ones sent in the fake propaganda film Nation’s Pride. In this instance, there is quite literally no difference in the films. As Americans, we may find this mythologizing forgivable when we do it… just remember though, when the German soldiers do it in that trailer, we find the effect laughable – the obvious hero worship of the German soldier and the obvious uselessness of our own soldiers depicted in the film is distasteful. We should, by that same logic, find such unrealistic mythic depiction of our soldiers and our enemies similarly distasteful.
Last, question we ask… is did this film have it’s intended effect?
Oh god yes! Go to IMDB and read the positive reviews! Read the youtube comments! I have to say no more than that… when you read those positive reviews/comments you will see propaganda at work. Imagine those same reviews being made for the fake film Nation’s Pride? We would think the German people are brainwashed to give such positive reviews to such obvious propaganda… and yet….. well… when we see American citizens doing the same to a similar film, we find it forgivable.
That, that right there is interesting to me. That is really the intense effect of propaganda… easy to see when they do it, almost impossible to see when we do it to ourselves. It takes actual effort to uncover propaganda when it is coming from the inside… and we really should be more mindful of that. If you want to see a real propaganda film.. go see Argo! That one, that one is riddled with myth and outright lies, more to that… Affleck had CIA advisers when making the film itself… so it is even more damning then Lone Survivor. Compared to the propaganda in Argo… Lone survivor is an independent biographical history! (If you are interested a great takedown of Argo is here: http://tinyurl.com/ajjn4ua)