I like to go to the cinema. I am happy to admit I go for escapism, entertainment and education – not for cultural analysis. However, a couple of recent cinema visits have led me to reflect on how movies matter. Perhaps only few will cause cultural changes, but many do reflect those changes – and help us to understand the cultures we are living in.
Top Gun: Maverick - let me entertain you
Top Gun Maverick is an unusual film. A modern progressive, who is unable to stop seeing everything through the eyes of their progressive dogmas will struggle. After all, this is a film whose hero is a white, heterosexual, all American male.
The plot is unbelievable, predictable and cliched. It is a film representative of the heteronormative patriarchy – with no openly gay, trans or bi characters, and the women playing largely secondary roles.
Furthermore, there is an implicit racism in the film – although the bad guys are not clearly shown, there is no doubt that they represent Korean or Chinese people. There are a number of people of colour in the film, but just as in real life, they play relatively minor roles. The whole film deserves a trigger warning!
It was quite astonishing to go to the cinema on a Saturday afternoon and just be entertained – not preached at. Not made to feel guilty because of skin colour, race or sex. It was just good old-fashioned fun. Yes, the plot was predictable, but the movie was well made, the action sequences great and a good time was had by all!
In fact, unusually for a sequel, it was better than the original. A packed Sydney cinema on a Saturday afternoon and the fact that Maverick has made almost $1bn worldwide so far (despite being banned in China – it is too pro-American and there is a sequence where a Taiwanese flag is seen on a jacket!) testify that I am not the only one to think so. When even Mrs Robertson loves an action movie, you know that something special is happening!
Lightyear – go woke, go broke
Meanwhile Disney's Pixar has released Lightyear as a sequel to the phenomenally successful Toy Story series. It was expected to dominate the cinema ratings, with analysts predicting it would make $100m in the US on its opening weekend. Instead, it made $51m and failed to take the No 1 box office position, which was taken by Jurassic World: Dominion. Worldwide the figures have been even more disappointing. Why?
One reason could be that Buzz Lightyear is not voiced by Tim Allen, the actor who has made the character his own. He has been replaced by Chris Evans with some commentators suggesting that this was because Allen was too conservative for the new woke Disney.
Allen also gave a hint as to why the film is not doing as well as expected, when he tweeted, "Took some kids to Disneyland and overheard a 13-year-old boy wondering if he may be pansexual because he loves skittles."
Disney has put itself at the vanguard of the progressive movement in the US – and it is not going down well. Lightyear, which cost $200m to make, includes a female character voiced by actress Uzo Aduba briefly kissing her female partner in one scene. As a result, 13 countries in the Muslim world have banned the film, and it seems that many people elsewhere are getting fed up with the 'not so family friendly' Disney.
Disney sees its new role in the world as indoctrinating children and parents into the progressive values of the US elites. It should be no surprise that many people throughout the world, and in the US, are fed up of this cultural imperialism. 'Go woke, go broke' should be the maxim on many of the corporate executives' lips.
Operation Mincemeat – good lies?
Meanwhile, when back visiting Scotland, we saw another surprising film – Operation Mincemeat – starring Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. It tells the true story of an incredible plan by British intelligence to fool the Germans into thinking that the allied invasion would take place in Greece rather than Scilly. It is a film about real and valuable disinformation.
I won't spoil it for you, but it is highly recommended. It was well made, tense, informative, and superbly acted and filmed. It was a reminder of a different world – where character rather than skin colour matters, and where some people even manage to resist the temptation to fall into bed together at the drop of a hat!
Maybe these are old-fashioned words, but how good it was to see films that were wholesome, educative and entertaining. And films that I could go home thankful for – not having to get out of my mind the excessive, violence and misery that is so prevalent in so many modern films. One can only hope that the success of these films is a sign of better things to come.
David Robertson runs The ASK Project in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at the Wee Flea.