Where Have You Gone, Roland Emmerich? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You


Over at the liberal-but-good Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough has that rarest of things—an interesting analysis of upcoming films' political overtones. Before breaking down the anti-Bush, anti-GOP overtones of films like The Departed and Marie Antionette (but not Death of a President) he dials the wayback machine for the (Bill) Clinton era.

Beginning in 1996, when Bill Clinton handily won a second term, the films being released were almost uncannily prescient of the doom to come.

Alongside president-as-action-hero films, such as Roland Emmerich's 1996 Independence Day (President Bill Paxton leads a triumphant counterattack against the aliens) and Wolfgang Peterson's 1997 Air Force One (President Harrison Ford battles terrorists who have hijacked the title plane), emerged more realistic plot lines. As the Whitewater investigation plugged along and Paula Jones pushed her law suit, filmmakers started pitching hints of the president's extracurricular activities as box-office bait. In Absolute Power (1997), Clint Eastwood is the only witness to the adulterer in chief's murderous disposal of his latest Oval Office tryst, and in Murder at 1600 (1997) presidential hanky-panky again goes hand in hand with homicide and conspiratorial cover-ups.

The analysis of upcoming films with anti-administration subtexts is intriguing, and could go even further. As much as Hollywood-bashing provides the cultural right with a steady revenue/outrage stream, the Medveds and Bozells of the world haven't internalized just how decisively most Americans have turned against Republican rule.

NEXT: Abuse of Power

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  1. Long before _Independence Day_, Green ubergeek Emmerich produced _The Noah’s Ark Principle_,whose maguffin was a global climatic catastrophe precipitated by oil field fires in Iraq!

    From that premise _The Day After_ grew into _The Day After Tomorrow_ and _Jericho_. So look to Andre to second Aj Gore’s rerun as the Great Green Hope come 2008

  2. It wasn’t Bill Paxton, it was Bill Pullman.

    Sheesh. 😉

  3. Lowdog,
    Who cares? So long as it isn’t a Baldwin we come out ahead in the game.

  4. I doubt the plotlines of Hollywood screenwriters represent the feelings of most americans.

  5. Besides, in the end Dennis Quaid saved the world.

  6. Randy Quaid. Lucky thing James Franciscus and Tony Franciosa weren’t involved in any of these projects.

  7. David

    “how decisively most Americans have turned against Republican rule.”

    Hmm. Doubt it. We’ll see around 8 PM Nov 7. I suspect it’s an ‘eddy in the current’, not a ‘turning of the tide’.

  8. “It wasn’t Bill Paxton, it was Bill Pullman.”

    Simpsons did it!

  9. Is this a fucking joke? Didn’t any read the article? Its ridiculous. Absolutely fucking ridiculous.
    Incrediable. I can’t believe I just subscribed for three years to this magazine.
    Tell me, its joke Friday, right?

    The schmuck at Phoenix says the Robert DiNiro character was a “head hollywood honcho.”
    No, he wasn’t. He was a political consultant character based on Ed Sears.
    And that is the least of the articles errors.

    Really, unfucking believable. That Phoenix article is a joke, something, that if you didn’t mention where it came from, I would’ve guessed the Onion.

  10. I’m with Terry. That was the single worst piece of writing I’ve ever seen published. So stupid, so full of errors.

    “The Departed” analysis is just pathetic. Grasping at straws anyone?

  11. Definitely a big difference between Pullman and Paxton. Pullman doesn’t have 3 wives.

  12. randy quaid saved the world in “independance day”. dennis quaid saved the world in “the day after tommorow”. both emmerich.

    i never saw his “godzilla” remake. is it really that bad? i like the japanese original and the first american one with that guy from perry mason and rear window in it. i liked all the vs. movies when i was a kid but i don’t really enjoy novelty anymore like that.

  13. As a former Bostonian, that’s exactly the facile, groundless, aging-hippie bullshit analysis I came to expect from the Phoenix.

  14. I don’t think the author actually watched Murder at 1600. There was no “Presidential hanky-panky” in that movie. The President was entirely innocent. It was his evil right wing National Security Advisor. (Oops. I spoiled a 10 year old movie for H&R readers.)

  15. Lucas may have been inspired by anti-Nixonian sentiment when he made the first Star Wars installment, but millions of Americans looked at the galactic empire and saw the USSR.

    For Carter-era malaise, you can’t beat Buck Henry’s The First Family. Ooo-luuu-luuu-luuu-luuu-luuu!!!!


  16. Just to talk about a movie…

    …ever wonder how much the Clooney project “Three Kings” had to do with the SECOND Gulf war?

    It was sorta of a weak Democratic meme of the period, when the first flush of victory over Iraq made the first George Bush look invincible, and Gore discovered one of his kids was sick.

    You criticise Bush from the Right…you see? He didn’t “finish the job” with Saddam, although that is not what the UN or aour European allies (multilateralist) wanted.

    So perhaps the only significant Holloywood movie about the Gulf war left the impression that the Iraqi masses were ripe for liberation, and disposed to throw flowers on Clooney’s APC.

    Then…it all didn’t matter, because Bush’s poll numbers tumbled, and the Dem’s candidate turned out to be a Viet-era draft-dodger, who waffled on the Gulf war, but who was also an extraordinary politician – Bill Clinton. (And Gore’s kid got well enough to allow him to latch on.

    And it all was forgotten…in the sense that Democrats were perfectly willing to abandon those beknighted Iraqi oppressed.

    But the American people had been given the impression that the natives were restless.

    To the extent that a movie can make a difference, could Clooney be at fault? Can taking a cheap shot bite you in the ass?

  17. Quaiiiiiiiid!

  18. I think about that a lot, Andrew. It’s interesting that Clooney, as far as I know, has never been called upon to address this disconnect.

  19. This theme of true believers betrayed bodes ill for a party now under serious reconsideration by the religious fundamentalists and extreme conservatives who put them in power.

    hmmm so religious fundementalists are not extreme conservatives….i wonder who these extreme conservatives could be if they are not fundementalists??

    well lets see the republican party can be divided into two camps…the economic libertarians and the fundementalists…gee so when he says EXTREME conservatives he means libertarians…by the way i not suprised at all that David Weigel doesn’t mention this at all.

  20. Three Kings was released in 1999, so you may be crediting George Clooney with more prescience than he probably deserves by connecting it to Gulf War II.

  21. The Clinton 2nd period was somewhat foreshadowed by the Kevin Kline comedy Dave (1993) where Kline is called in as a double for a POTUS who goes into a coma as a result of a stroke suffered during an “amorously engagement” with his mistress in a hotel room. What makes the film odd is that it was written, started & finished pre- & post- production and was released while George H. W. Bush was still POTUS-41.

  22. I doubt the plotlines of Hollywood screenwriters represent the feelings of most americans.

    That is true. Nonetheless, Hollywood and the MSM exert a huge influence (and they know it) on the thoughts and feelings of most Americans anyway.

    The MSM blatantly lied to the American public about Vietnam. I will be amazed if historians don’t later demonstrate that the same happens with Iraq.

    Also, the government lied about Vietnam as well, and probably is about Iraq.

    Of course many wise little brains around here claim THERE IS NO MEDIA BIAS in this country. Which is really easy to do if you basically agree with the bias.

    The purpose of a free press is to allow debate, which (ultimately) leads to truth. That’s great when everybody gets the facts, so the facts can be debated. What do you suppose happens when the press, and the government, are telling their own lies instead?

    The Left, who does dominate the MSM, shows no awareness of the fact that if the free press doesn’t give the masses in our “democracy” the straight truth, so it can be debated — then there is little value in having a free press.

    And that, friends and neighbors, is a bigger threat to the existence of a free press, than anything else on the playing field. Ultimately people will not defend it, because it fails to deliver the only goods that matter.

    The next time somebody says “the Democrats protect civil liberties” I’m going to barf. The Democrats don’t protect civil liberties. They protect their own right to mislead, for their own purposes.

    So does the government. What do you think Bush’s “expansion of powers” is all about? And did anybody really expect him to behave any differently?

    The people may or may not be unhappy with the Republicans. This does not mean the Democrats are worth running to.

  23. Is this a fucking joke? Didn’t any read the article? Its ridiculous. Absolutely fucking ridiculous

    Ayup. I’ve come to expect that from David Weigel.

  24. Intriguing idea, but very lame article, and the author rrrrreally stretches his premise a little. I ‘m surprised he didn’t touch on the anti-Cheney tone of Open Season

  25. Dat’s nuttin’. Movies. Just check out TV for current serial Lost, a worldwide hit echoing Illuminatus! and Watchmen, written by someone I’ve known since he was in high school. Most viewers probably don’t realize it yet, but the story’s going to turn out to involve a gigantic conspiracy with earthshaking implications, and the biggest lesson it imparts is one of skepticism.

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