Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 30, 2001/ 8 Sivan 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Hollywood and hype --- and a lot of eggs -- MAYBE, as the show-biz newspaper Variety insists, "Pearl Harbor" is the movie that will live in infamy.

But if it does, infamy won´t last long. Virtual reality, like most things in modern America, has the shelf life of a day-old shrimp.

"Pearl Harbor" made a mint for its producers over the Memorial Day weekend, even if the mint was not quite as big as the producers were counting on. The movie grossed $75 million, far short of the $100 million expected of it. On the other hand, the Japs of ´41 didn´t get all they wanted on the original Pearl Harbor raid, either.

Our Japanese friends of ´01, some of whom are said to be unhappy with how the movie treats the dirty deeds of their grandparents, can take comfort.

But the uniformly bad reviews aren´t likely to prevent it from making a lot of money. Not even the soap-opera love story with its unlikely heroes and the impossible plot turns can diminish the true story of Pearl, and what it came to mean to the America that has since vanished.

The historians, the critics, the pundits and the plain folks who resent history being trifled with should relax and savor the popcorn, the girls in their summer dresses, the remarkable special effects, and most of all, the nap in the middle two hours of the movie. World War II is too firmly fixed in the national consciousness -- or at least that part of the national consciousness that is still conscious -- for any mere movie to transform virtual reality into the real thing. Movies, like their stars, get only 15 minutes of fame when they get any fame at all, as Andy Warhol famously said of modern celebrity.

Movies no longer have the power they once did. D.W. Griffith´s first great film epic, "Birth of a Nation," was celebrated in the White House by Woodrow Wilson, who endorsed Griffith´s view of the original Ku Klux Klan and its not-so-subliminal message that Christians should unite to preserve white supremacy in America. So powerful was the message that the movie is credited by many historians as reprising the Klan in the mindlessly violent incarnation very different from its origins as the confederation that saved the South from the worst depredations of Reconstruction and became the pillar of the Democratic Party. Griffith and his movie projected power and influence far beyond the movie screens of the nation. Memory of all that, hazy as that memory may be, is what keeps the Democrats prosperous in hundreds of Southern courthouses to this day.

No moviemaker could project such influence now.

Several have tried. Richard Attenborough´s movie depicted Gandhi as a Christ-like figure who never so much as coughed, burped or swatted a gnat in living a perfect life, but it wasn´t long before the authentic Gandhi emerged from the accounts of those who actually knew him as a dirty old man who slept with children, obsessed with his ego and the growling and explosions of his bowels.

The television miniseries -- more like a "miseries," one wit called it -- based on Alex Haley´s book "Roots" was totally fraudulent as the actual history he said it was, as thousands of gullible American blacks learned when they went to Africa expecting to find the remnants of paradise and found only hellholes far worse than the most miserable Newark slum or row of shacks on a Mississippi Delta bayou.

Hollywood tried again with "Amistad," a tale of a slave who led an uprising on a ship bound for America who was finally freed through the exertions of John Quincy Adams at the United States Supreme Court. What the movie left out, only to surface to spoil the celebration of the movie´s politically correct aura, was that Cinque, the heroic revolutionary, returned to Africa to become a slave trader himself. Oliver Stone attempted to lay the Kennedy assassination on the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the Republican Party and Hillary Rodham Clinton´s vast right-wing media conspiracy, but his portrayal of a deranged New Orleans district attorney as a latter-day Elliott Ness made his movie a joke and Stone´s name a synonym for sucker.

And now we´ve got the History Channel, the Internet and the cult of the Greatest Generation to keep movie-theater history wedged behind the popcorn machine. The producers of "Pearl Harbor" are rightly scolded for trying to eliminate references to Japanese perfidy in hopes of making the movie palatable to the Japanese movie market, but it´s not just airhead Hollywood hacks who throw out inconvenient facts in pursuit of a buck. The Smithsonian Institution once tried to make Harry Truman, not Tojo, Hirohito and Yamamato the villains of the war in the Pacific, and only the cries of veterans (and this newspaper) raised enough stink to stop it.

Facts are tough, and survive even infamy.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Wesley Pruden Archives

© 2001 Wes Pruden