Art is used to do a lot of things, in particular to convey diverse and varied messages and if we often associate art with a form of protest or criticism of society, it sometimes also serves to serve governmental interests and places itself discreetly in the pay of the power in place. We call it propaganda, it’s not always pretty, but it exists and we invite you to see some more or less famous examples (ok, generally really not famous).
1. Top Gun and the US NAVY
Did you know that the US government had creative control over the film Top Gun ? The producers had signed a deal with them to get super expensive military vehicles in exchange for a positive presentation from the military to increase enlistments. And the bet was successful, the American army recorded a peak in engagement and the film brought in a bundle of dough. Everyone was happy, America grew out of it.
2. The Russian series on the Chernobyl disaster that wants to restore the image of the government
When the excellent series Chernobyl arrived on our screens, it irritated the Russian government a little, because according to them, it showed that the country had mishandled the disaster. And don’t get me wrong, it was, but that the Russian government doesn’t want to know, that’s why they announced directly that they were going to produce their own series that was going to show how it really went from their point of view. It’s hard to imagine that this series, which will be propaganda for the government, will end up in the list of the best mini-series.
3. Unplanned, the anti-abortion film that wears big clogs
Whatever opinion we have on the matter, that on the film quite often remains the same: it’s very bad. The director whose story it is put on huge clogs, but mostly lied about how family planning works in the United States, showing only what she wanted and taking great care to hide the rest. All to pass a necessarily false and chiseled message on the issue of abortion in a Christian country where the right to abortion is already a complicated issue. It’s not pretty, it’s poorly done and misleading.
4. Star Wars and the Vietnam War
Well, this example is more famous, but some people still don’t know that the first Star Wars trilogy was a critique of the Vietnam War, with the empire being the US military and the ewoks being the Vietnamese soldiers. George Lucas has stated it many times, his film represented a critique of the conflict and showed an underarmed people fighting a more powerful enemy and equipped with more technologically advanced weaponry to defend their land and their freedom.
5. Rocky IV and the Good vs. Evil Boxing Match
You see two boxers in a ring, you have to see the United States against Russia. The problem is that in addition to opposing the two historically rival countries, the film does not put on gloves and presents the Russian opponent Ivan Drago as someone cold, mean, fundamentally bad and insulting to the United States. And if you think that’s just a character treatment, look at how they portray the boxer’s wife, it’s even worse.
6. The “slasher movies” of the 80s and the anti women’s liberation
The sub-genre of slasher horror films has its own codes and in particular that of the famous “final girl”: it is generally the main character of the film represented by a young adult / adolescent who not only manages to survive but also to kill or fight the killer. And what do all his 80s movie characters have in common? They were virgin women.
The other female characters were generally over-sexualized and portrayed in a vulgar, lascivious way and therefore had (by the logic of these films) no chance of survival. In Friday 13 several characters who are killed have just had a sexual relationship and it is all the more marked on the female characters. If you want to see good slashers that completely return these codes, we advise you ItFollows and The cabin in the woods who manage to play skillfully with the representation of women in slashers.
7. The Dictator and Roosevelt’s Call
As he began preparing for his film, Charlie Chaplin was tempted to give up when the first news of the horrors of war in Europe reached the United States. He was afraid that the light-hearted comic tone of the film would ridicule what was really happening on the other side of the ocean and Franklin Roosevelt intervened in person. The president contacted him and advised him to make the film to ridicule the Nazis and portray the Allies as the heroes. Well, for once in the idea, it was “good” propaganda.
8. Hays code or Hollywood formatting
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Hays Code (named after its creator William Hays) was applied in Hollywood, which effectively prevented screenwriters and directors from doing what they wanted. This censorship and self-censorship very often hides a form of government propaganda on various subjects that we suggest you quickly review since this concept has been in place for 30 years and has influenced cinema such as that we still know today.
9. The Hays Code: Crime and Decency
After the advent of film noir and gangster films in the 1930s, the American government expressly asked the studios to no longer represent criminals by angelizing them, but to make the police the real heroes. There was a formal ban on presenting the criminal methods in detail so as not to tempt the public to break the law. The representation of alcohol consumption was even forbidden and later it was represented negatively.
Similarly, the use of vulgarity and indecency was simply suppressed from screens for several years. The idea was to keep the population away from the temptation to break the law, but also to portray in the form of negative clichés those who did so while the police and the representatives of the law and the state were shown to be virtuous and heroic.
10. The Hays Code: Sexuality and Religion
On the aspect of sexuality the Hays code was also used to format and idealize marriage and fidelity. Nudity and sexuality were never to be shown or only in certain ways and puritanically. Sexuality in general was often presented as a perversion and the weight of Catholicism was felt on the productions. No religious person should ever be portrayed in a comical or criminal way and each religion portrayed was done so with respect. Well then, all that goes mainly for Catholicism, because other religions were completely demonized by Hollywood, like voodoo for example.