The Daily Bork

May 09, 2005

Hollywood the arbiter of history?

Hot on the heels of the Vietnam 30th anniversary comes the 60th anniversary of VE day. Of course for those who never fought it is another good chance for a whinge about American culture.

Freden 1945: Så banaliseras Europas historieskrivning

Peace 1945: How Europe's history is made banal

The article is cheifly about how attention is focussed on the Western Front of the European fighting and how this devalues or erases the atrocities of the Eastern Front and the contribution of the Soviets to the Nazi defeat.

Den ena efter den andra storfilmen handlar om de amerikanska krigen i Stilla havet, Pearl Harbor och så vidare.


På senare tid har tyngdpunkten flyttats till Europa. Förintelsen har ägnats kanske 100 filmer, men också nya hjälteepos om den amerikanska insatsen för Europas befrielse i form av Band of brothers, som sprids på film och tv.

One after the other big film deals with the American war in the Pacific, Pearl Harbour and so forth.


In later times the focus has moved to Europe. The holocaust has contributed to about 100 films, but also new heroic episodes about the American contribution to Europe's liberation in the form of Band Of Brothers, which is spread on film and TV.

I'm sorry, but where is it written that American's making movies about war must write to a specific agenda? "Hollywood" is as free as any to make films they like, for the consumption of people who go to see them. It is hardly surprising that they make films more directly relevant to the experiences of the people who go to see them. After all, they are first made for the American market, not the left fringe of Swedish academia, and many families in America still have veterans alive today. It is hardly surprising at all is it now? And excuse me, but there are plenty of early war films about the European theatre, just like there are actual films about the Eastern Front (with Cross of Iron, Stalingrad, Enemy at the Gates springing to mind just now). Speaking of Enemy at the Gates, it is mentioned in the article but also that it was boycotted in Russia. So? There are lots of shit movies made.

The rest of the article goes on to detail the Eastern Front, highlighting the horrors inflicted by the Nazi death squads and the damage done to the Soviet Union. The question is asked why the Soviet defeat of the Nazis is not so heavily detailed in the West. One, the West had its own battles to fight with victory hardly a foregone conclusion. Two, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are rightly regarded as two sides of the same coin of terror (witness the antics of the European and American left prior to and then following the invasion of the Soviet Union, first admiration for Hitler then loathing). The alliance with Stalin was making the best of an extremely bad situation. How would the story change if Stalin had struck Germany prior to the invasion of Poland? Third, the West was engaged from the end of the war in the Cold War. The Western Armies immediately demobilised most of their strength in Europe at the end of the fighting, while the Soviets never did, maintaining massive armies along the new frontiers. It is hardly surprising that people were reluctant to glorify those who were facing them across the Iron Curtain and fighting proxy wars for decades against the Communists. Fourth, the Soviets were as bad as the Nazis in their actions, both in murdering their own and those in the countries they occupied and in sending countless Russians, Germans, East and Central Europeans to the labour camps. The only difference really was the lack of industrialisationi in the process. Not really the sort of thing that good movies are made of.

Anyone who learns history from "Hollywood" is doomed to be badly misinformed... crap films abound and who seriously believes that the events of movies such as Kingdom of Heaven, Enemy at the Gates or Pearl Harbour are accurate reflections of what actually happened? "Hollywood" is under no obligation to produce films in a balance according to some history professors tastes. After all, when will a Swedish film company make the blockbuster movie about Scandinavian volunteers to the Waffen SS?

There are plenty of good books about every front of the war, it only takes some effort to find them.

Finally, it seems that the Russians seem not to have learned from the horrors they suffered through with their headlong rush to let Putin assume the powers of a new Stalin.


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