WHITE-WASHED MOVIES, ANTI-IMMIGRANT POLICIES, AND THE HISTORY OF CINEMA
By Marty Lloyd Woldman
The Great Wall is the Worst Movie of the Whole Year and it's Only February
The other day I was on the Youtubes about to watch a video. According to my viewing history, it was either an Aesop Rock video, or a depressing BBC documentary on Victorian poorhouses. But before I could watch the thing I wanted to watch, Youtube wrenched my eyeballs through a trailer for the new Matt Damon turd, called The Great Wall. It was one of those ads I could skip after five seconds, but the masochist in me had to behold the whole tortuous spectacle.
I haven’t seen the movie. I’m not going to. But I have seen both trailers twice, and I read most of the Wikipedia synopsis, which is all I need to denounce this congregation of moving images as a blight on humanity. If you haven’t seen the trailers, nor read most of the Wikipedia synopsis, worry not. I’ll save you the trouble.
Matt Damon, and another guy, are in China trying to gank some gunpowder. But then they get attacked by this dragon-monster-thing, and like chop off its arm, or something, and then they get captured by the Chinese folks at the Great Wall - HEY! THAT’S THE NAME OF THE MOVIE!
Matt Damon, and the other guy, are like: “We’re just humble traders.” And the Chinese Wall Folks are like, “Nuh uh. Y’all are trying to steal our shit. We’re gonna put you in Wall Jail.”
So they’re in Wall Jail, and the Wall King, or whatever, tells them that the dragon monster things attack them every 60 years, and it’s about that time.
Matt Damon is like: “I wanna help!”
The other guy that’s not Matt Damon is all: “Fuck that mess. I wanna steal some gun powder.”
Willem Dafoe is in there somewhere, and then there are tons of action scenes that look like they’re ripped straight from that one episode of Game of Thrones with all sorts of shooting, and arrows, and acrobatics, and swarms and swarms of those monster-dragon-things, and then Willem Dafoe says something else, and then that’s it.
The tagline for the movie is:
1700 years to build.
5500 miles long.
What were they trying to keep out?
Prior to this movie, we thought that the Great Wall of China was there to keep out various nomadic tribes of the Eurasian Steppes. But now we know it was to keep out hordes of dragon monster things that are here “to feed,” just like David Icke has been trying to tell us for decades. Suck it, historians.
Oh yeah. I forgot. That’s what Willem Dafoe, or that other guy, says in the trailer. Off-screen dialogue goes:
“What do they want?”
HEY.. WHAT ABOUT THAT OTHER WALL PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT?
I don't know if you've heard, but there's been plenty of talk in the news about another wall on the Mexican-American border. But this wall isn't meant to keep out monster-dragon-things. Rather, it's meant to keep out folks from Latin America fleeing abject poverty and starvation. Some folks would have you believe there's no difference between the two -- that immigrants only want “to feed.” These people are racists, and shouldn't be listened to.
It's part of the hit Nationalist trend that's been sweeping the Western (read: white) world. With the UKIPs in Britain calling to stem the flow of Bulgarian immigrants, the irrational fear in Europe and the US of accepting Muslim refugees, and of course the U.S. electing the Great Orange Beast -- the Western White Nationalist train to Doucheville has gathered a considerable head of steam.
And so Universal Studios thought “Hey, I bet there's a way to profit off of this without being called overtly racist. If we make the invading hordes into monster dragon things instead of a particular ethnic group, xenophobes the world over can project whatever racist fantasies they have onto the monster dragon things, and we get plausible deniability.”
Well, Universal Studios, I'm calling you out.
The irony here is Universal Studios was founded by a Jewish immigrant. Carl Laemmle founded Universal, and like most of the founding Hollywood moguls, he immigrated to the U.S. to escape antisemitism. Many of Them were fleeing White Nationalist pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Laemmle and the other moguls, such as the Warner Brothers and Adolph Zukor (founder of Paramount), got their starts in selling textiles and other commodities, or bookkeeping, in Laemmle’s case. When they saw what a draw films had in the Jewish slums, they built their own movie theaters.
At the time, the only film producer in America was perhaps the biggest asshole in science history: Thomas Edison.Edison was somehow able to schedule time between elephant electrocutions to make White Nationalist propaganda films, which figured the white aristocracy as the paragon of civilization.
These future moguls realized that racist, classist films weren’t of particular interest to their poor, Jewish audience, and some of them decided to make their own productions. Edison decided these Jews were getting too uppity and formed a guild of filmmakers that was effectively a monopoly on the industry. It took seven years for Laemmle to successfully challenge the monopoly in court.
If it weren’t for marginalized immigrants, unwanted by American society, our film history may have been just a procession of endangered species being publicly barbecued and rich white people congratulating themselves on how awesome they are.
...now that I think of it, that dystopian vision of cinema is not entirely dissimilar from The Great Wall.
WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS SUCKATHON OF A MOVIE ANYWAY?
I don’t know who pitched this movie. That information may not be available to the public until the interview extras in the Criterion Collection DVD release. It’s possible the culprit is the most accomplished of the litany of screenwriters, Tony Gilroy, whose filmography has a strong right wing undercurrent.
Tony Gilroy is that kid you knew who spent all day burning ants and strapping M-80s to GI Joes, all growed-up. In 1997, he wrote The Devil’s Advocate. In a time when Republicans were pushing hard for tort reform, Gilroy depicted lawyers as literal minions of the devil. Also going on during that time was a growing environmental consciousness. So the next year he wrote Armageddon, wherein oil drillers save the world from destruction.
In 2000, he wrote Bait, starring Jamie Foxx. If you’ve never seen it, don’t worry, nobody did. Wikipedia says this movie is about feds implanting Foxx with a chip that tracks and bugs everything he does so he can unwittingly gain information for them. But Foxx keeps getting into trouble and the feds have to keep stepping in to act as benevolent, unseen guardian angels. The message here is pretty blatant: line up for your chips, folks. The government has your back.
In the Bush years, Gilroy wrote the Jason Bourne series. This series is slightly less all-out for surveillance and extra-constitutional intervention, but the message remains similar. Essentially it’s saying that yes there may be a couple bad guys trying to spy, but they’re just bad apples. And there are Joe Shmoe badasses who will totally take care of it for you. So don’t worry about it.
So it’s possible The Great Wall was Gilroy’s doing. But it’s equally or even more plausible that Universal wanted to crack that sexy Chinese market while offering Western appeal, and they tapped Gilroy because they knew he wouldn’t have those scrupulous compunctions of conscience that would preclude even the most derelict bottom-feeding writers in Hollywood.
THE PESKY PARADOX OF THE MODERN MAGNATE
It wasn’t that long ago that China was seen as an oppressive Red Menace, ruling over its people with an iron fist, and threatening our American way of life. Folks don’t really say that anymore. What changed? Is China suddenly an exemplar of civil rights? Nah. China’s suddenly hella rich, and willing to trade with us.
Conversely, xenophobia needs to continue to be fostered towards developing nations so the capitalists can keep their economies depressed. This way, they can continue to exploit their resources.
So how does the ruling class justify both the auspices of isolationism when it comes to poor nations, and increased cooperation with wealthier nations? The way it’s always been done: finding common enemies.
Even though The Great Wall is a fantasy story, the Europeans searching for gunpowder places the story roughly in the era of the Mongolian invasions. It is safe to say that the monster dragon things are most historically reflective of the Mongols. This has special significance because the Mongolians are the only nation to threaten both China and all of Europe simultaneously. This is a binding force that ties our vastly different cultures.
The very existence of oligarchy depends on ideological walls being built, telling us which foreign Others are the good ones and which are the bad ones; which nations, which peoples, which ethnic groups are worthy of our collective ire. This is how institutional oppression has functioned for millennia. Without the Great Walls they build in our minds, the entire structure would topple.