White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen present the US as it wants to be: heroic and all-powerful. But the truth is quite different.
With White House Down released in cinemas this week, one might feel a bit confused as to why theatres have decided to run the movie again. But wait – this is not the one with Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart; this one stars – wait for it – Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. So, less than six months after Olympus Has Fallen opened in UK cinemas, the White House is, once again, going down.
Releasing two almost identical movies in one year is a not-so-rare Hollywood trend
Remember 1998, when Hollywood got us all spooked that there was an imminent danger that could very well mean the end of humanity? Remember Armageddon and Deep Impact? This is the not-so-rare trend in Hollywood of simultaneously releasing movies with a closely related central theme. It might be just a coincidence, or it may be something more.
This year, it’s not planet Earth that is about to meet its demise, but the house of the President of the United States. With Korean militants attacking the White House in Olympus and local paramilitary boys doing the job in White House Down, at least Hollywood is levelling the field by trying not to single out one nationality as the baddies (this is contrary to 1998, where Hollywood’s racist intentions were quite clear, when both Armageddon and Deep Impact used a meteor as the villain).
However, whereas in Armageddon and Deep Impact we were presented with two very different outcomes (1) Earth survives – hooray! 2) Earth goes kaboom – sad face), this year’s cinematic Siamese twins could only really ever have one outcome. Nobody really has any worry about the wellbeing of the American president on film, nor of that of the amazing superhero-like agent coming to his rescue. Of course, knowing that the President and the hero will survive does not really make for a bad movie. It’s not this cliché of the typical American action movie that is worth looking at, but rather Hollywood’s everlasting attempt to impose in our minds a specific idea about the United States’ importance in the greater scheme of things, be it military or otherwise.
These two films are part of Hollywood’s attempt to skew the United States’ importance in the greater scheme of things
Hollywood has invested a lot of money and effort in 2013 to present us with the possibility that forces so great could actually inflict such a big hit in the heart of the US capitol, at the best-guarded building in the world. The threat, foreign and domestic, is targeting the President and the US government due to its disagreement with how America and the man in the Oval Office has dealt with some very important global issues (North/South Korea conflict in Olympus, Middle Eastern conflict in White House Down).
The bad guys don’t like how America is doing its business when it comes to foreign policy, and they decide to take out the US government starting from the top (because why waste time and energy starting from, let’s say, just some military targets, or a city?). Fear not, however, because the US prevails, in the form of two men in each case: a cop/agent and, yes, the superhero President.
With America contemplating on its involvement in the Syrian civil war and the worldwide outcry that has followed, one feels that the US is not regarded anymore as a power that can dictate world foreign policy. From a militaristic point of view, the US has been consistently failing for the past 40 years. And with Hollywood still pushing ideas of a once-mighty nation leading the way in resolving global threats and issues, one wonders who they are trying to convince.
With all that’s been happening in the world, people can’t watch these movies thinking America is still the great force it once was
Hollywood is not just making movies for US audiences anymore. Studios have to work their way through a global market. Movies reach India, China, Japan, South America; with all that’s been happening in the world, and the continuously enhanced awareness of all, it must be a joke to think that people are watching these movies thinking America is still the great force it once was (if it truly ever were). Then again, maybe we should just see these movies as one of Gatsby’s parties: loud, colourful, sexy, but soulless. Get in, get drunk, get out. Enjoy your explosions.
Featured image: Centropolis Entertainment
Inset images: Millenium Films; Centropolis Entertainment