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Activism or Propaganda?

Some of the most influential political characters in movies, including Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in

Slate Magazine

Some of the most influential political characters in movies, including Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in "All the President's Men."

Patrick Ales, Staff Writer

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There is no aspect of society that is immune to political agendas, especially when it comes to artistic expression. The film industry has long been influenced by politics, whether it be as subtle as a director’s personal views or outright government propaganda. Many films fall in a middle ground, one where there is a clear side being taken on an issue that troubles society at the time, but without demonizing the opposition. After all, movies are meant to be enjoyed by the general public, and directors cannot risk alienating potential viewers by painting their beliefs as the enemy. Obviously, many movies with the sole purpose of entertaining the audience do not serve as a vehicle for a political agenda, rather, these ideologies are often found in dramas and documentaries.

The role of film in modern society extends further than just selling out movie theaters; the industry has begun shifting towards bringing the issues that plague society into their plots. During times of war, such as the World Wars and Vietnam, movies in the United States either served as a means to oppose the fighting or support the troops. These clearly marked political agendas brought to light some of the atrocities of war, while oftentimes simultaneously attempting to rally the public around the war effort. The line between support of a war or a government and outright propaganda is rather blurred, as most of these films are influenced to some extent by the very government they praise. However, not all movies with a trace of politics revolve around war or even major events, they often relate to the common struggles of the individual. Films starring strong minority actors can highlight the lack of representation that many minority groups face, whether that be in the film industry itself or in a society with scarce job opportunities for minorities.

I do not think politics should be the driving force of a movie but I do think it is fair for directors to comment on relevant political happenings. ”

— senior Jack Band

Whether movie-goers actively seek out politically “active” film or not, its continued presence in the film industry will prevail. The use of politics is not always a partisan slugfest, it can oftentimes expose the public to issues that are ignored or misunderstood. Movies like Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 comedy “The Great Dictator” take the struggles of real people and present them to a greater audience in a way that better engages them, as opposed to news coverage.

“I think that movies and television shows play a surprisingly large role in influencing the public, since people can relate to movies and often see how issues affect people, regardless of whether the portrayal of that issue is in film,” senior Alex Anton said.

As Hollywood does tend to lean overwhelmingly to the left, many opponents of politics in movies argue that it drowns out a conservative voice and can even paint the right as a villain. There is no doubt that in a consumerist culture like the United States, the film industry can play a major role in shaping public opinion, and there should be a balance in how much one side of an issue is favored. While that does not mean that there needs to be a sudden influx of conservative directors pumping out politically motivated movies, it would not hurt to have the public connect with both sides through films. It is inevitable and almost encouraged that politics play a role in the plot of movies, but the extent to which it alienates a certain demographic should be measured. Calls for the separation of politics and entertainment are idealistic and not consistent with the general desire of an informed and engaged public.

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About the Writer
Patrick Ales, Staff Writer

Patrick Ales is a senior in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Coral Gables Senior High School. This is his first year in CavsConnect and...

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Activism or Propaganda?