War Films, Hollywood and Popular Culture

Michael Medved
Radio Talk Show Host, Author, Film Critic

Michael MedvedMichael Medved is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, best-selling author and film critic. He graduated with honors from Yale and attended Yale Law School. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he reviewed films for CNN and later worked as chief film critic for the New York Post. He also served for twelve years as co-host of Sneak Previews on PBS. His daily three-hour radio program is heard in over 170 markets and his columns on media and society appear regularly in USA Today, where he serves as a member of the Board of Contributors. Mr. Medved is the author of ten books, including Hollywood vs. America, Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence (with Diane Medved) and, most recently,Right Turns: Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on March 9, 2005, on the Hillsdale College campus, during a five-day seminar on the topic “War on Film,” sponsored by the Center for Constructive Alternatives.

A book published in 1999, The Black Book of Communism, computed the number of corpses that communism had accumulated since the Russian Revolution in 1917. The total adds up, in the 20th century alone, to more than 100 million. The U.S. fought a life-and-death struggle against world communism between the end of WWII and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. We won that war, thank God. And Hollywood’s continuing insistence on portraying the Vietnam War—which, along with the Korean War, was an integral part of that life-and-death struggle—as having taught us that all war is pointless is a way of ignoring the fact, not only that Hollywood did not engage in that struggle against world communism, but that most people in the entertainment elite were on the wrong side of it. I say this with respect and with caution. I am not suggesting that most people in Hollywood were active communists. But I am suggesting that the anti-anti-communism that became so typical of Hollywood during the Cold War has led to its ongoing denial that the Cold War meant anything.

Can anyone think of a movie that has celebrated America’s victory in the Cold War? Probably most of us will think of Miracle. Apparently Hollywood can face the fact that we beat the Soviet Union in a hockey game, but not the fact that we overcame the Soviet Union politically—through attention to moral principles and through the maintenance of military superiority—because the entertainment elite is terribly invested in the idea that no war ever meant anything.

Some of you are going to leave this fine college and go out and make tremendous contributions, I hope, serving in our military, which is the most honorable thing that any American can do. But some of you also, I hope, will go out and engage in a different kind of combat, a battle to redeem the popular culture—which, in terms of its false treatment of the military and of America itself, and its denial of the awful occasional necessity of war, is a popular culture in deep need of redemption.

People like the gentleman I had on my radio show today love to say that “Violence never solved anything.” But what solved Hitler? Was it a team of social workers? Was it putting daisies into the gun barrels of Nazi Panzer divisions? Was it a commission that tried to understand what made Hitler so angry? No. What solved Hitler was violence. And what will solve the problem of Islamo-fascist terrorism, I’m sorry to say, is not understanding, negotiation, conferences, social workers, daisies, or anything other than the heroic violence of brave men and women with guns, fighting selflessly for their country—this greatest nation on God’s green earth.