I watched a couple of movies at the weekend that are part of the new Hollywood genre – Mr Smith Goes to Baghadad.
These tend to be political dramas where the American armed services or covert operations units are called in to sort out problems in the Arab world and make the point that, well, nothing is particularly clear-cut.
It really is a terribly ambiguous area and there is no simple answer. There are religious and political and economic interests all colliding from all social strata to create an effective chaos. This is something Hollywood generally doesn't take to; except when there’s a buck to be made or a message to be pushed.
I guess Hollywood has this thing where the latest conflict is fodder for new movies. I’ve been amazed at how many World War 2 films were made in 1942 or 1943. I mean, they weren’t even sure at that point who was going to win; but they were busy churning out their patriotic promos.
It’s more discerning now. The two films I watched at the weekend, Rendition and Body of Lies each featured what I like to call EAS (or, Exploding Arab Syndrome). This can easily be translated as: In any street on the Persian Gulf, when the cameras are rolling, and there is a crowd, then there shall be a suicide bombing.
Stereotypical? Of course not. Because everybody knows that: In any street in Los Angeles, when the cameras are rolling, and there are Hispanics, then there shall be a drive-by shooting.
In any street in New York, when the cameras are rolling, and there are people, then there shall be a mugging.
In any part of New Zealand, when the cameras are rolling, and there are mountains, then there shall be hobbits.
These are all well established cinematic facts. Inevitably some acronym agency (the CIA, the NSA, the FBI or BKSB – the Burqa King Special Branch) is sent in to sort things out.
They discover that there is one featured Islamic terrorist who’s responsible for it all, and who is deluding all his followers to make them blow themselves up. They track Bad Muhommad down and arrest him. Which is where the story ends.
Except that the story doesn’t end there, because the interrogation, torture and murder of the Islamic terrorist chief and the retribution of his followers is sadly omitted. Such are the muddy waters of Hollywood plots in the Arab world.
Either way, the good guys win out at the end. With no one questioning why the Americans are getting their feet and reputations dirty in Iraq in the first place when it was their allies in Jordan who helpfully provided most of the 9/11 terrorists.
Do I have a point here? Um, not really. Basically I’m just rambling about how Hollywood has embraced the Persian Gulf as a setting for political action thrillers. Which really only serve to whitewash a complex political-economic-religious situation with plots so simple a blind wombat could follow them.
If Hollywood wanted to do some serious damage to the Nation of Islam, to really bring it crying to its knees begging for mercy, there’s really only one sure-fire way to do it – Ishtar 2.