The controversy over the new Hollywood film First Man leaving out the planting of the American flag from its tale of NASA’s first-ever Moon landing in 1969 isn’t about ideology. It’s about commerce.
It’s paramount to remember that Hollywood movies are all about money. So, when star Ryan Gosling told reporters the film’s plot “transcended countries and borders” he wasn’t really talking about Neil Armstrong and NASA. He was acting as an employee of a major global industry, dutifully parroting the spin required to deflect unwelcome controversy about the new corporate project.
In fact, it is Hollywood that transcends borders today, and with foreign markets making up a crucial part of its revenue, the days of John Wayne defending the Alamo are gone forever.
An American Story
When President John F. Kennedy gave his “we choose to go to the Moon” speech in Houston in 1962, he wasn’t talking about the world working together to get there. He was issuing a call to American Greatness, declaring a mission statement for a still-young and dynamic America poised to reach and explore new frontiers. Astronaut Neil Armstrong acknowledged this uniquely American mission himself.
“It was decided by Congress that this was a United States project,” Armstrong said well after the Moon landing. “We were not going to make any territorial claim, but we were to let people know that we were here and put up a U.S. flag.”
But for modern Hollywood bean-counters, patriotic expressions of glorious American moments don’t sell in Shanghai.
You see Hollywood, an American-based industry, doesn’t make films for Americans anymore. Profits are perceived to be maximized by generic, bland stories that can reach the greatest number of people throughout the world. Thus, by definition they must appeal to the lowest common denominator, because anything too specific will naturally exclude some market that can be tapped at some pinpoint on the world map.
Tom Brueggemann, writing at IndieWire.com, describes why the new Hollywood waters down its content to reach a maximum global audience:
“In 2000, there was no such thing as a top movie that made 20% or less of its revenue from North America … Today, there’s 10 of them — and there’s likely more on the way.”
Foreign revenue is indeed driving Hollywood.
“According to recent figures from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) almost 70 per cent of the studios’ annual revenue from box office now comes from international markets,” the BBC’s Tom Brook noted in 2014.
What this means for Hollywood movies made about America should be clear, Brueggemann declares:
The numbers tell us American audiences’ opinions of American movies will continue to be discounted. As more top films struggle at home, an increasing portion of studio release schedules will include films with marginal domestic interest. The biggest budgets will be allocated to films of foreign interest, not domestic. That means the box office stagnation we’ve seen this year will continue, and likely grow worse.
First Man certainly is expected to attract American moviegoers, but global business demands require that their interests alone do not matter.
No Country For Nationalists
So, while the makers of First Man had to know – and did know – that excluding the planting of the American flag, a seminal moment in the completion of the national mission challenge set out by JFK in 1962, would not sit well with American film fans. But they just didn’t care.
China has enormous potential as a market for Hollywood and so patriotic displays of national American pride must be excised. Celebrating American greatness may ding foreign revenue, so you as an American moviegoer are not permitted to experience it in Hollywood films.
Globalism is not just an economic poison. It destroys culture, artistic expression and even historical accuracy as well. Good grief.
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