Thursday, February 16, 2012

Judging those evil commies again

Back in October of last year, I talked about how to judge anti-Communist movies in a way that I think might be more fair. It's a comparison that I think is worth bringing up again since TCM is airing the fairly dreadful Mission to Moscow early tomorrow morning at 4:15 AM.

Walter Huston stars as Joseph E. Davies, who was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. The real life Davies wrote a memoir about his experiences, and at the urging of Franklin Roosevelt, Warner Bros. turned it into this 1943 movie; 1943 being a time when the US and the Soviet Union were both fighting the Nazis. I don't know if Davies was just a naïf, or if he was a mendacious bastard. But either way, the movie whitewashes Stalin's atrocities. The really irritating thing, however, is that there are bound to be anti-anti-Communists who will stand up and suggest that we have to look at the movie in the context of the time it was made. Hogwash, I say. Suppose we had movies from Hollywood in the late 1930s that were whitewashing what the Nazis were doing. Do you think anybody would suggest that we had to look at such films with an eye to the fact that there were people who didn't want to get into another world war? Hell, there are a lot of people who have critical words for Hollywood studios of the day for still marketing their films to Nazi Germany.

Or, fast forward several decades and move the scene to Latin America. There were quite a lor of military dictatorships and relatively few democracies. Successive US governments supported certain of the dictators on the grounds that they were also standing up against Communist expansion. But to what extent do we excuse people who suggest that we have to look at it as realpolitik in the context of the time? Certainly not the people making movies. Movies like Missing, set against the 1973 coup that deposed Chilean President Salvador Allende and brought Agusto Pinochet to power; or Salvador, documenting death squads in early-1980s El Salvador are widely praised in no small part because of their political views.

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