Monday, January 28, 2008

Disturbed: Yankee Doodle Dandy

We watched the 2 Disc Special Edition of Yankee Doodle Dandy today since it is 100 on the AFI's Top 100 film list. As the special edition it has a feature where you can experience a night at the movies 1942 style with a theatrical trailer for Casablanca, a Newsreel, Short Film (in this case the Patriotic Short Subject called "Beyond the Line of Duty") and a Bugs Bunny Cartoon before the movie itself. Which is a very novel and fun idea. However, by the time I finished watching the film and all these extras I felt really disturbed and unsettled. The main things that jumped out to me were:

1) The Newsreel announcer was basically going through telling the US public of all the places that the US army was fighting the war against the Axis....and the way it was put together made it seem like the US was single handedly defending every country in the world (including Australia). While they may have had soldiers in every country I find it hard to believe that it was purely their presence that defended those countries. Also, the announcer had a line that stated, "America has never lost a war they've fought in and they're not going to lose this one." Or words to that effect. Such arrogance....really grated with me...noone can tell who will win a war until it's OVER!

2) The Patriotic Short Subject "Beyond the Line of Duty" is a short film about a war story involving an Airforce pilot and a hairy mission over the Phillipines. It really glorified the role of the airforce pilots. I don't deny that they played a very very important role in WWII but when the average lifespan for a pilot during WWII was 3 glorify it in such a manner rubbed me the wrong way.

3) The film Yankee Doodle Dandy has a song in it that was written by George M Cohan for World War I called Over There. The chorus most disturbed me so I've cut and pasted it below:
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
-That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming
So prepare, say a pray'r,
Send the word,
send the word to beware.
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over
Over there.

I think this chorus epitomises the way I have seen America deal with problems in the past 6 years (and that's all that I can remember since I've not been an adult all that long! :)). Combined with the newsreel and short film it just disturbed me and made me really quite angry at the arrogance and idea that this seemed to be trying to say that America is this amazing empire that will never fall. All empires eventually fall it's the way of History. Please, don't misunderstand me: I am not saying I want America to fall. I am also not saying that I believe this 1942 film and attached extras epitomise America perfectly. It does however, give me an understanding and perhaps a realisation that if this is the kind of propaganda that the US have been fed over the last 100 years then George Bush and his policies and war declaring ways are just an outworking of that. Perhaps I've oversimplified things but really I'm quite glad to be Australian this evening and I'm going to have to shake this disturbed feeling.

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