Propaganda in Pop Culture Still Exists, and It’s in Your Favorite Movies | The Big Picture


So! As we left our thesis off last time: “Propaganda”
as we generally think of it in the negative or at least corny sentimentalized tacky sense
sort of ceased to exist as a meaningfully significant art form or weapon of the “culture
war” in its it’s own right at least as far as mainstream grownup entertainment was concerned
toward the middle peak of the Cold War – certainly in the West and especially in the United States; leading briefly to a shot but noteworthy moment covered in some depth last time wherein Intelligence
operatives turned to dumping money into everything from creative writing workshops to Jazz tours
to abstract-expressionist modern art in order to create anti-Soviet counterweights. Now that’s not to say that outright propaganda
movies, TV shows, books etc of the conventional sort stopped existing out right – there were examples:
Just not big organized efforts like Why We Fight documentaries of the 40s or the
revisionist Stalin biopics the Soviet Union was making at
the time… and they tended to be efforts of private citizens or organizations rather
than the military or government agencies for example – as far as anyone knows… nobody had to ask John Wayne to make
The Green Berets in 1689, essentially the only big-scale pro-Vietnam war movie produced
in the U.S. during the war itself: He went to the Government and offered to as a show
of support because he… supported it and they said yes. “What…what will happen to me now?” “You let me worry about that Green Beret.” “You’re what this is all about.” …yeah that movie really sucks by the way
and I say that as someone who likes a lot of John Wayne movies and doesn’t pretend
that he wasn’t talented just because of his politics. But, okay… here we are in the present, so
the big question: We’ve got more entertainment, art and media options than ever, the world
is more confusing and geopolitically unstable than ever, people are more connected think
they’re more informed and savvy than ever which really means most of them are more gullible
and vulnerable than ever, so… does this stuff still happen? Of course it does!!! …does it still happen
like it did those times before? That’s a little more complicated. Okay, so “officially” the United States Government does not have an official Department of Propaganda or Ministry of Information. What it does have are the Bureau of Public
Affairs – which is basically a combination of the State Department’s press-laisson
and publicity-management office public-information hub for U.S. citizens traveling abroad – and
the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which funds and oversees state-run pro-U.S. and/or pro-Democracy
media outlets…overseas, outside the United States (primarily in the Middle East and Asia – none of them
particularly influential or well known.) It’s mostly a sink for think tank money. But as that whole “Culture War” thing that
the CIA and the Farfield Foundation and Nelson Rockerfeller and all the guys we talked about last time, were so damn concerned about in the last episode? I mean… up until the last decade and a half
or so it would really cross anyone’s mind that the U.S. would need to fight that any more – as it turned out that whole “You’ll never dominate world culture if your chief
creative exploits are Mickey, Ronald and Coca-Cola” assumption was… way the hell off base: We
won the the shit out of the global culture wars, with our plastic junk so for the last few decades “Promoting American Values Abroad” has pretty much meant “letting American companies sell their
extremely popular stuff.” Ya like that cheeseburger? Uncle Sam says you’re welcome! Ya like Mickey Mouse? We did Mickey Mouse! Ya like The Simpsons? That’s us, too! Ya like Mike? You’re welcome! Looney Tunes? You’re welcome! Coke? You’re welcome! Elmo? You’re welcome! Big Movies? You’re welcome! Friends? You’re… (really? People outside the U.S. were that into Friends?) …well, okay you’re welcome. Do you want Joey? You can keep Joey. Now! A lot of people have a lot of theories about
the relationship between government entities and corporate media, often fluctuating based on who is or isn’t in power and how you define corporate media and what this or that person thinks the bugbear of the moment is or isn’t. But, one of the reasons this “Part II” isn’t
quite as “OMG revelatory” as the “Part I” episode is that since we’re dealing
mainly with the present-tense I’m restricting this to things that are generally known to
be taking place rather than theories, speculation or conjecture. So, for example: Is it “interesting” that,
right around the same time that environmentalists and climate scientists have became more openly
comfortable saying “We gotta make big changes and sacrifices to save the planet!” a big
recurring theme in mass-appeal movies has started to become bad guys who see themselves
as altruistic environmentalists for whom “Big changes and sacrifices” mean “I’m gonna
fucking kill like half the people because I’m crazy??” “Overpopulation, pollution, war…the mass extinction we fear has already begun. And, we are the cause. We are the infection.” “20 mouths and not enough to go around, and when we faced extinction I offered a solution.” “Genocide.” “At random, dispassionate fair to rich and poor a like. They called me a mad man.” …Yeah – that is interesting! Does it mean that I think that, like, The
Illuminati cut a giant check to Disney and said “Hey, so we need everyone to think Thanos
next time they see Greta–?” No – that’s stupid. …but the confluence is interesting. That’s not to say that the uncomfortable
subject of the government and/or military or intelligence agencies (or whoever else) involving themselves with trying to keep a certain uniformity of message on-brand is completely off the table
– it’s just exercised in a different, more precise and some would argue more insidious
way. Since this is getting a bit long, I’ll cut
to the chase: Ya’ know how TV shows aren’t supposed to show real products most of the time because if the people who make the product don’t like the context it’s shown in they can under
certain circumstances ask for it to be edited out at the show expense or on the flip side it can damage the show’s ability to leverage for charging other brands for the privilege of product placement? Well, the reason that the more “authentic”
a movie or TV show set in and around the U.S. Military is, the less critical of said military
and/or foreign policy it probably going to be, is because The Pentagon owns the unique trademarks to
all the uniforms, insignias and specific designs of… all the war stuff basically; and if you want
to play with the real war stuff in your big-budget action movie or get actual troops and crew
to help with the equipment or appear on camera, The Military has to approve the script and
the general tone of the film – and if they say “No,” and you can’t or won’t change
it, you’ll probably have to use different, decomissioned weapons or shoot in another
country that uses similar enough gear – which can be very expensive or make your movie look like shit. And this can be largely arbitrary: Supposedly,
Independence Day didn’t get to use any real Air Force equipment solely because they left
in the plot-point about the Area 51 cover-up being real thing; whereas the Transformers movies
got the full support of the military because Michael Bay has a very good relationship with The Pentagon (for various reasons) in general and because that franchise’s morally-questionable secret-agent stuff was being done by a fictional extra-governmental entity. And this is true of basically any film you’ve
seen that had an official production agreement with the U.S. Military – even if they didn’t
also have some kind of additional advertising campaign or whatever else: No, the army didn’t
strictly-speaking “fund” the production directly or “give them money” …but they did give them a discount…kinda No, this doesn’t generally result in grotesquely-obvious
message-mongering or subliminal-inception like that Simpsons Navy epsiode. “Yvan eht nioj…they keep saying that. Wait was that? Uncle Sam? Let me play this backwards.” [singing] “Join the Navy. Join the Navy.” [gasp] …but it’s more about smaller details and things that don’t get said which start to add up in terms of cultural uniformity of subject and message. We’ve all seen movies that say “war is
hell” or “anti-war” films or even films about certain soldiers, or Generals or policies who just aren’t nice – but how many times have you seen a movie where the overriding theme is that the concepts of militaries and soldiering and war-fighting are themselves inherently bad – irrespective of your actual
opinion of that position? …exactly. The current gold-star champion of this is
the Marvel Cinematic Universe – no one else comes close. Even before the Disney deal Marvel Studios
and the Pentagon have been nigh-inseparable (one of the few instances where the Army wasn’t
involved was the first Avengers because The Pentagon decided that the overall concept of
S.H.I.E.L.D. and the World Security Council outranking the rest of the military itself was just not something they could hang with. But otherwise Marvel has had standing production
agreements with the Department of Defense going all the way back to the first Iron Man
and continuing up to Captain Marvel doing official full-blown “Women of The Air Force” ads
today. And you might be thinking… “Okay, but apart from that the Marvel movies
aren’t particularly ‘patriotic’ excluding the one really obvious case – and to the degree
that they are it’s much less ‘patriotism’ for one country than for some shared global identity of post-national Disney consumer-citizenhood maybe? And the films have often been thematically
anti-war, anti-nationalist, anti-surveillance, anti-misogynist, anti-racist…” Which is true – but they also manage to be
against ideas without necessarily gesturing at every version of them or the structures behind them. Like I said, I can’t keep having these things go on
too long so if you want a real deep dive on all this go read this fantastic series of
articles at this link, but just in the broad strokes: The whole MCU leaps
off from Tony Stark deciding that he has to be Iron Man because he hates both terrorists
and himself for what all the harm done by the weapons he made. I mean… okay, good start Tony, growth is
good, but… you were over there to sell em to the U.S. Army – what do you think they
were using them for? Later, we learn his superhero tenure was preceded
by Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers, who defects from The Kree “Star Force” after discovering
that they are in fact not brave warrior heroes but rather the colonialist military arm of
an imperial war machine and she’s been being sent on missions against desperate indigenous
refugees. In her outrage, she resigns her post and symbolically
recommits to what she recalls as a more noble and just position of her previous life…
the U.S. Air Force. So… that’s gonna be an awkward night on
Google eventually if nothing else. None of this is “ideological critique,”
just so we’re clear – merely observation… though one could posit that this situation
of being produced in such a way to so frequently be criticizing or even subverting a fantasy
metaphor version of militarism or government overreach while also taking place adjacent
to the reality of the same is not un-related to persistent broader criticisms about the
Marvel films so often being about a battle to restore a status quo rather than people
who aren’t villains taking proactive forward momentum. Okay, I just looked at my word count and it’s
time to wrap this up – what are we supposed to take from all of this? Well, I feel like this where I’m supposed
to have some kind of surprise extra twist meaning to all of it, but it’s really
kind of the same “point” that this show always has: There’s always more to the things
we like or dislike, and it’s always a good idea to know more about what you’re watching,
reading, playing, listening to and how the content got to you – from who and why. Not in a cynical or reflexively skeptical
“Can’t enjoy anything way,” but in a “being an active participant even in your
own passive activity” way. So that you’re an engaged player in your own consumption of media. That’s how you get more out of what you watch and it’s also how you come to demand more of it in the first place. I’m Bob and that’s The Big Picture.




Comments
  1. Schlocktober is here! Come learn about Dinosaurus! https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/2019/10/03/schlocktober-2019-dinosaurus-the-big-picture/

  2. Thanoses plan was basically Jimbo's From South Park. Kill most of them they will not die he called it thin out the numbers

  3. The really odd thing about Captain Marvel is that if you take away the advertising and the colours of her uniform, the movie is actually pretty critical about the military. I mean, what is Carol's goal at the start of the movie? She wants to be a fighter pilot, because she wants to do something "what matters". What is her role when she is with the Kree? Being a combat soldier. What does she do at the end of the movie? She comes to the conclusion that what truly counts is not just fighting enemies but specifically protecting lives. I mean, it is pretty easy to see the Kree as a proxy for the military and the Skrull as the terrorists/refugees which were created by their actions.

  4. fantastic, i thought you weren't gonna talk about the fact the us military has to give its approval for their depiction but you went there, really liking this one hope there's more

  5. I’d argue that the Marvel movies are inherently patriotic if for no other reason then pretty much all the superheroes are either American or from somewhere fictional like Wakanda or made up alien planets. A huge chunk of them including Captain America, Captain Marvel, The Falcon, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye etc are associated with the military. I don’t think all those MCU liberal themes about refugees, feminism, war etc are anti-patriotic they’re just progressive. I think that as someone with a very globalist sensibility who likes the MCU Bob sees the MCU as globalist when it’s if anything pro-American and globalist not one or the other.

  6. Can you please talk about Chinese influence on the entertainment industry?? They’re the country who are making the real propaganda pop cult these days. It’s one of the biggest reasons why Independence Day 2 sucked. They did a really good South Park episode about it last night.

  7. The CIA has a ton of assets in the entertainment industry. That's the main reason it was so easy to Unionize nearly every aspect of the Entertainment industry. It was the only way to regulate and control propaganda delivery systems without appearing to regulate them. So people can't tell on the surface that some piece of media is propaganda, until it's digested. Get it?

  8. And the fact most news casters are "ex" CIA. Disney has a shared history with government experiments. Ps global warming is a scam and you can find every US president that we have 10y left since the 70's

  9. Even as an 8-year-old watching it on release, I hated "The Green Berets". They killed the chihuahua. I was young enough not to place the fault of the action on in-film characters but on the makers of the film. Which turned out to be right.

  10. Ha ha! Joke's on you, I'm from the UK, we already have Joey! He hosts Top Gear.

    Oh… you mean the show? Nah, you can keep that…

  11. the trick to not being fooled by media propaganda is to be aware that it exists in almost all media and should be expected.

  12. There are far more 'anti' military, America movies than there are pro ones and they are usually failures at the box office. I would say pop culture promotes anti-americanism i.e. globalism by a factor of at least 10-1. Not just in movies but TV shows as well. Most of pop culture is pro illegal immigration, America is a huge polluter, America causes all the global warming, America is racist, America is colonialist, American values suck. While we are not perfect the America/American hate in pop culture is rampant and far outweighs pro-American 'propaganda'. I would call it anti-American propaganda.

  13. I pretty much disagree with Moviebob on most political issues, but that doesn't mean he isn't insightful or informed about a lot of the things he talks about.

  14. I thought the ending statement was really eloquent and VERY important. If this show has a mission statement, it's definitely this. Well said, Bob.

  15. Two examples that think got left off the list for the Pentagon involvement and approval subject were the Godzilla 2014 and Man of Steel. Now maybe it's just me and I have found nothing official that delves into this but in those films it seemed like yes the US military was featured…for the sake of being featured. In Godzilla's case the film sidelined an actually interesting stories of Doctor Serizawa, Joe Brody, and Admiral Stenz in favor of following around the rather uncompelling jarhead Ford Brody (as well as playing keep away with the monster fights) and Man of Steel had the conspicuous inclusion of Colonel Nathan Hardy and his little rivalry with Faora-Ul.

    Again, maybe it's me but I can't help shake the feeling that in both cases some top brass at some point said "Yeah, you can use our stuff. But we want these included so we can look good and maybe do a little not really but kinda recruitment stumping."

    I only bring it up because you could remove both from their respective films and not really lose anything (or in Godzilla's case actually have more room for the good stuff) and the films seem to build around them in an almost "We're contractually obligated to include this" way.

    Am I off base or does anyone have a bit more insight into the matter?

  16. Stop trying to be Yahtzee….. I only subscribed to escapist for zero punctuation. I don’t care about this attempt at a thought provoking video.

  17. Argentinian here. If u get in a bus here, u will see someone watching Friends in his phone. IS (present tense) a big thing here.

  18. why is this filled with concessions just finish writing the script and do another take if you fuck up greta's surname or whatever happened there

  19. To you, sir, I say: SPEC OPS THE LINE that had real weapons and military shit even though it was set in a fictional conflict is it different for video games? Probably

  20. "Really? People outside the U.S. were that into Friends?"
    On the topic of propaganda, yes. Abolutely.
    Friends for whatever inconceivable reason is legitimately one of the major reasons so many Europeans learn American accents over British ones, or at least over more discernibly having the English accent of their native countries.

  21. Thanos was a Malthusian, that's right wing ideology.
    And militarism in Captain Marvel isn't as strong, it's the Airforce ads that played in the USA

  22. Hey Bob! I'm a fan of yours living and working in the entertainment industry here in China, and one of the strangest jobs I had was working for the state-run company "Startimes" that dubs mainland Chinese dramas and Kungfu flicks into English for African cable TV.

    One of the more interesting things about it is that it is obviously an example of modern day propaganda or the pushing of Chinese soft power on the African continent and it's interesting how successful they've already been. I just thought it was relevant to today's episode as an interesting example of what some other countries are doing.

    You can read more about it here:

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/23/business/startimes-china-africa-kenya-intl/index.html

    Really interesting episode as always. Keep at it man.

  23. Well said, we could all do with being a bit more critical of the entertainment we consume and the information we are given. Your show has really helped me enjoy things on a different level

  24. Yes, we were VERY much into "Friends", Bob. Not me, really, but all my college mates back in the nineties were. My niece was born in 2000, and even she's into "Friends".

  25. Ohh, interesting. I always saw Thanos as a warning:
    "Please let us stop climate change before we have to resort to such drastic measures."
    Or
    "it has gotten so bad this person really knowing what's going on is willing to risk thenself, their family and humanity to fix it"
    In the case of the king of monsters.
    Kind of shows you how your image of the world tints how you perceive stuff.

  26. One of my favourite expressions ever is 'Follow the money'. Whatever you're doing be it watching a movie with a message or reading a scientific paper, follow the money. Who funded this and what could they gain from it?

  27. Friends was huge in Belgium, everybody in the 90s watched it and than watched the countless reruns. Including me.

    BTW I'm a such a Chanadler Bong

  28. Im having fun AND learning! After a 4 hour flight that was diverted and caused me to arrived home an hour late this was a great way to decompress.

  29. Really love this second part Bob! Ive been following you and the show since the start and the ending is a great thesis for the show overall ❤

  30. the Flipside of the 'Evil Environmentalist' supervillain trope is the 'Impending Doom that the people in power willfully ignore until its too late' trope: See Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, etc.

  31. Good points in here. Plenty of things I feel like I should have known, especially considering that I'm a veteran

  32. I had read somewhere something once [citation needed] that some of the reasons that the pentagon declined to share/fund the Avengers was A. The army would just be fodder to the invasion instead of instrumental to the victory (i.e Man of Steel) and second that the use of a nuclear warhead solution was seen as a dumb and almost traitorous action, instead of a desperate, we-must-do-it solution to the threat (as in Batman v Superman, Dawn of Justice)

  33. It's be interesting to see how the MCU handles mutants considering their whole thing is you know institutionalized racism, shady government, or paramilitary groups and the like.

  34. That would be the most braindead title and thumbnail ever, if many of your videos weren't competing with that. The so-called "propaganda" about Captain Marvel is mostly the deranged hate-hype by incels and little shits, the movie itself has nothing going for it in terms of actual "propaganda" (unless one applies it like a total imbecil – which I want to emphasize you are) even to the first Spider Man, for example, to make it completely irrelevant and meaningless… You are too dumb to play with such words, you are the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual these days, who want to destroy any intellectual standards, and wank every braindead popular convention, sh*t-storm and circlejerk that exists, yet still appear intellectual and insightful.

  35. I also took the "meaning" behind transformers to be that the U.S. military is so ridiculously over expensive that the only justification for its existence is giant alien robots. Probably not the author's intent, but it's definitely in the subtext 🙂

  36. Gotta be honest, Bob. Every time you say "this is getting too long" I just think that I wish you'd do more longer videos!

  37. When future generations look back on contemporary media culture our near-total hard-on for the military even in anti-military movies is going to be one of the things they're going to point out as stupid.

    Remember those old movies where a guy talks about women as inferior like its a fact? Yeah thats us with the military.

    The idea of a post-nationalist and post-military society isn't called "Project obvious" for sarcasm.

  38. I will say that the overdone evil super scientist calling for eugenics or cleansing of population has been a mainstay of media longer then after 2000. From distrust of academics who are perceived to continue superiority cults to racial division politics in cartoons. Its old hat.

  39. Thank you Bob. I feel these two episodes are going to take a few viewings to sink in fully, you have crammed a lot in.

  40. Be careful putting Captain Marvel in the thumbnail with a title like that or you'll make the anti-feminists think you're on their side.

  41. Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, they can usually agree on that they "support the troops". Very few people wish there wasn't a military at all.

  42. "Are people outside the US are hot on Friends?"
    You have no idea.
    To this day the Israeli version of Comedy Central dedicates most of it's Saturday (the day of in Israel) to this show. Yes, people are HOT for Friends…
    Why? I sincerely don't know…

  43. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of negative press coverage about MovieBob pretty soon, the media doesn't like it when someone tells the truth about them.

  44. 6:28 Well they use a CGI B-2 Spirit (Air Force) to launch the nuke over Texas. Also in Area 51 there are more than a few Air Force uniforms walking around during those scenes, so I don't think this point is accurate.

  45. Oh please, the Illuminati didn't go to Disney to get that in their movies, the Illuminati ARE Disney, obviously. Same with Elvis, the Illuminati didn't go to Elvis and ask him to pump pro-US sentiment overseas, Elvis's a member. Heh, you probably think he's dead.

  46. I wish more people watched your show. The entire concept is exactly what I feel a lot of communities would benefit from. Understanding what you are watching not only leads to more acute enjoyment but also allows you to seek out and demand media of a higher quality. Still, I continue to watch in the hope I help attract more viewers. Thanks Bob!

  47. Bob, you genuinely cracked me up with the commentary on "Friends" because it's sadly true… And now that it's available on streaming video format, we noticed how poorly it has aged 😅

  48. Real important comment you made, "pretend he wasn't talented cuz of his politics" I grew up in the seventies, was too embarressed to let anyone know I was sneaking in to the theater to see The Shootist. IN fact it was like a private screening. I was the only one in the theater.

    But real glad I went, one of his best. Anyway, important comment. And yeah brother G.B really sucks.

  49. The writers workshops are honestly why they didn't need to push propaganda as much anymore. By the mid-80's we'd had it so ingrained that we do it to ourselves, and place it into fiction without realizing it.

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