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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

Act of Valor (trailer, and questions of propaganda)

Reader Gensing emailed yesterday to point out that Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast is asking whether Act of Valor is propaganda. Gensing writes:

The question being when a film is made using real Navy SEALs in battle sequences is it propaganda?

I would ask if it is exploitative, or opportunistic? Just how close can a studio work with the Department of Justice before it becomes propaganda? My first reaction was ‘so what’ but I do see who it could be considered a slippery slope. I have no answer, but I’d love to hear what the other readers (and you, of course!) think about this.

Until we see the actual film, it’s almost impossible to say whether this is propaganda or not. The fact is that many Hollywood films display jingoistic elements — see: the oeuvre of Michael Bay, which invariably glamorizes the military, the police, and American exceptionalism. And this certainly looks like one of those sorts of movies…

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

…right down to the pretty blond pregnant wife who needs to be protected.

Of course, those other similar films do not get produced with the direct involvement of the U.S. government. It seems vanishingly unlikely, with real active-duty Navy SEALs involved, that Act of Valor will feature any criticism of anything real active-duty Navy SEALs do, or any mission they might be ordered to embark upon.

One thing makes me very curious. The MPAA rating for the film is:

R for strong violence including some torture, and for language

Will it be only the bad guys who torture? Will the film acknowledge the unequivocal reality that American forces regularly torture as well? Or will what American forces do never be called or presented as torture because, you know, nothing Americans do could ever be called torture because we’re the good guys?

What do you think about the trailer and what it wants us to think about the film?

US/Canada release date: Feb 24 2012 | UK release date: Mar 23 2012

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