Last Sunday J.A. Young penned a scathing review of The Wolf of Wall Street, which I happened to see with him. I too left the theater feeling uneasy and angered, but the real scale of what happened didn’t truly set in until I returned home. I sat down in front of the television in a state of disbelief when two seemingly standard teaser commercials flashed in front of my face. Apart from scoffing at the advertised trash-stories, I felt like I was witnessing movies and television for the first time. It was all so plain and clear to me. What I was watching was nothing more than perfectly calculated propaganda—and I wondered if these are the stories that need to be told to society.
Crime shows make up a large constituent of evening programming these days and where these could provide a valuable platform for social awakening, they instead create a false reality of crime with campy characters and stock plots. The first of these two maddening pieces of “media” was a preview for the upcoming NBC crime-drama Chicago P.D. and although the show doesn’t debut until after the Olympics the trailers are already commanding a strong presence during commercial time. My initial reaction to the trailer was, “Bullshit!” because it in no way represented the Chicago I’ve read about in the news. Apart from the miniscule mention of the campy stereotyped hard-nosed African-American Captain, the cast appeared to be rather homogenous. Chicago is one of the most violent cities in America, do we not have a duty as a “civilized” nation to show the country what is really happening? Instead of solving the standard crime show plot of an upper-class white kidnapping, why wouldn’t NBC choose to do a civil duty and be honest? Simple, real drama doesn’t make money and harsh reality doesn’t capture viewers. More often than not these late night soap operas are meant to distract and create an illusionary landscape of crime and punishment.
Chances are you could travel anywhere in America and find someone who knows of Mark Wahlberg. His current film is the pure propagandist Lone Survivor. The movie presumably follows a ragtag team of elite soldiers behind enemy lines to fight an epic battle where they are outnumbered and left for dead. Although based on the real failed “Operation Red Wings” from June of 2005 in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor does not tell the story the American public should see. I have not seen the movie, nor do I plan to, but I can almost guarantee that it hopes to drum up chants of “USA, USA, USA!” from the audience. This is a distraction from what truly happened during most of our wars. Society is thrown this explosion-riddled film as a substitute for real information on the wars. Can the Man has reported several stories on the wartime aftermath that often goes unreported in the mainstream media and will continue to provide content that is meaningful and accurate—and not something artificially propped up with a hulking Mark Wahlberg and an endless budget.
The use of propaganda doesn’t stop with the movies, but for me, this seems to be like an easy outlet to express ideas to a large populace. My fellow Americans, we need to wake up and cut the crap out of our lives. There is a line between entertainment and propaganda—and it is becoming hard to discern if that line even exists anymore. I’m not clamoring for a complete abandonment of the entertainment industry, but we must begin to demand stories of relevance and importance instead of those drum up misguided patriotism or sound good to an accountant. I’m just tired of being deceived by the prospect of entertainment, only to have an inaccurate message shoved down my throat by cable giants and movie stars.