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Curbing the Patriotism in Captain America: Is Hollywood Over-Sensitive?

Posted: 04/07/11 21:30

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During the Bush administration, aggressive foreign policy and what was perceived by many as imperial rhetoric inevitably saw much of the world's perception of America shift from the loveably inspiring, multi-cultural idealists to raging, flag-waving despots.  Obviously this is an exaggeration, but it did see American marketers of global brands rethink the their strategy overseas and tone down campaigns that focused heavily on "American ideals", (a self-awareness and sensitivity that was largely absent from the presidential office itself) and films were no exception.  We saw 2007's Live Free Or Die Hard changed to Die Hard 4.0 outside of North America, and two years later, G.I. Joe: An American Hero was retitled G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.  We also saw Superman's famous mantra "truth justice and the American way", was conspicuous in its absence from Brian Singer's reboot.  So far, so easily adjustable, but what happens when the title of your movie invokes the jingoism that the global marketers are so keen to avoid?

This month sees the release of Marvel's latest Super Hero action romp, Captain America: The First Avenger.  Seeing as the character was created during the Second World War as a means of anti-Nazi propaganda, the nationalistic undercurrent is surely irrepressible, and how can you tone down Steve Rogers' patriotism when that is essentially his raison d'étre?  There was some suggestion that the film would be released internationally as simply, The First Avenger, but now it seems that Marvel have decided against the idea.  With the release of super hero orgy The Avengers next summer, Marvel are obviously wary that one badly received film could potentially ruin the project.  Captain America, the alter ego of sickly soldier Steve Rogers is the result of the inaugural experiment by the American army to create a new breed of super soldiers.  The reception of the character across the world, especially east of Berlin is of great importance to the Avengers project, especially as the character is the most unfamiliar of the collective due to an embargo placed on the comics during the Cold War.  In a time in which Hollywood makes over two thirds of its revenue overseas, the studios have found themselves treading on egg shells, but could this be the first example of oversensitivity from the Americans towards the rest of the world?

The UK's most famous hero is still bankable overseas.  James Bond remains popular with the international audience despite encompassing some of the more negative characteristics of the British national psyche.  Perhaps the reason is that he is a relic of a bygone age, a distant echo of the empire, out of place in a modern man's world, and what's so threatening about that?  In the 1960s, no one protested that Bond was over zealous when barging around the globe, but it was 20 years after the Second World War and he signified a waning threat, the blunt sword of the British Empire.  Perhaps Hollywood's newfound sensitivity is indicative of a nation in decline.  Do you think studio executives thought twice when the Russian crowd berated their own with chants of "Rocky! Rocky!", overcome by the power of the American spirit in Rocky IV?  During the fall of the Roman Empire, the games became increasingly spectacular in a last attempt to appease the masses.  Maybe the fact that Hollywood is now worried about what the world thinks is less of a financial consideration, but an example of a world super power in decline, atoning for its recent global transgressions.

Over the last few years we've seen countless movies that have humbled the former super power, from attacks on its foreign policy in Team America: World Police, The Hurt Locker and Avatar as well the documentation of the collapse of its economy in Capitalism: A Love Story and Inside Job.  Perhaps this newfound humility, a change in government and the beginning of the decline of Pax Americana has diluted the animosity towards America, and maybe the rest of the global population are ready to embrace the cock-sure,
star-spangled heroes of old once more.  Besides, no one makes them like the Americans!

Jack Pelling

 

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