I was encouraged to write this by my friend Barbara Corday.
As a "Motion Picture and Television Studio Executive" with little if any connection to the creative process whatsoever, the subject of "shooting" dramatic content on video tape rather then film would come up from time to time. It was my contention that the depiction of violence on film somehow conveyed that what was portrayed was make believe, but the presentation of the same content on video tape would project reality, and thus changes the reaction and receptivity of the audience.
It is now well over 30 years later, so it no longer matters if this was true or not. Filmed drama was and is indeed making believe.
The title of this piece is an attempt to question if what we see or hear in the movies or on television conjures up some sort of reality for the people watching, or it is somehow all just "make believe?" Are people really dead or are they just pretending?
The White House is I expect happy with the dishonest status quo of reports on the war. The presentation of wars reality by the White House could be refreshing yet all they continue to offer America is hyperbole. What would Tony Snow say if the reporters sent their networks pictures of the bodies of dead Americans to be shown on Television?
Movies have attempted to create some sort of reality when presenting war or the carnage created by the war. As horrid and as accurate the portrayal of this violence might be, to me, deeply rooted in the brains of the audience is that at the end of the movie, all of the actors killed or wounded would get up, shower, change and go home.
WHEN YOU ARE DEAD IN THE MOVIES YOU HAVE NEVER REALLY BEEN DEAD.
I did see Paths of Glory as a young man, and was shocked by the cavalier attitude of the French Generals as they sacrificed their soldiers. So many soldiers died needlessly in this film, yet I knew that those who died "on camera" were not really dead.
Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, and Braveheart graphically depicted the horrors of war, yet when the film was over, the audience knew that it was all made up. They were probably horrified by what they saw, but knew on some level that it was all made up.
Television is more of the same. Almost all of it, including the flood of non-reality reality shows is make believe, and the dead and wounded are not really dead and wounded.
"And now at long last, the rest of the story."
As much as I try not to do this, I "blame" the four broadcast networks for not putting the War, and the horrors of the death and dismemberment of our men and women into some sort of perspective other then reporting nightly the number of our "troops" killed or wounded that day. I expect that it is easy for most Americans to emotionally distance themselves from the abstraction of "the troops" dying or having their bodies shattered that day.
The "feds" wouldn't like it if the "media" were to point out each time that soldiers died, that they were each a "person," and that unlike in the movies, that these people would never take another breath, hug their kids, or have dinner with their Mothers and Fathers.
How would it be if the broadcast networks devoted five minutes each night in their network news to try and reduce the abstraction of the death of these men and women and personalize it by showing their names, pictures, grieving family members, and of course HOW THEY DIED AND WHY THEY DIED. The networks should have the temerity to recreate pictures of the caskets being returned with the bodies of our fallen soldiers that is forbidden by this administration. Cover the funerals; show the widows, husbands, mothers and fathers of the fallen.
Now of course this will never happen. Why not one might ask? Because our government has allowed and facilitated our broadcast media to come under the control of gigantic conglomerates who will not mess with this or any other administration in any way. If the networks did their jobs properly, (according to me,) America would have DEMANDED the end to this horrible war, now well into its fifth year, long ago.
While I am sure that it will not matter, it might just make a difference if tens of thousands of people would write to their local radio and television stations and ask that the truth of death and dismemberment be put into the context that THESE WERE REAL PEOPLE WHO WERE KILLED AND WOUNDED AND THAT THEY DESERVE MUCH MORE RECOGNITION THEN TO BE "THE TROOPS."
The President said on Thursday: "First, I understand why the American people are -- you know, they're tired of the war. There is -- people are -- there is a war fatigue in America. It's affecting our psychology. I've said this before. I understand that this is an ugly war. It's a war in which an enemy will kill innocent men, women and children in order to achieve a political objective. It doesn't surprise me that there is deep concern amongst our people."
Had I the opportunity at the press conference I would have followed up with: "Mr. President, have we killed innocent men, women and children in order to achieve a political objective? Do you hold that somehow our innocents are worthy of staying alive while theirs are not?"