The Odd Couple: Modern Hollywood and the military

By Joe Roessler
web posted February 28, 2000

Defense Secretary William Cohen is trying to enlist Hollywood to help the Defense Department with recruiting and image enhancement of the military. He would like to see them produce more movies, public service ads and television shows reflecting a positive representation of military life. He is asking Hollywood celebrities, such as Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise, to praise and visit American troops.

The problems of negative images of the military since the Gulf War initiated from within. Secretary Cohen represents an administration whose first priority when it took office in 1993 was gays in the military. Since then, women were placed in areas that were once restricted to men, such as aircraft carriers and in fighter and bomber cockpits. Sensitivity and tolerance training, ethics lectures, and AIDS awareness programs were initiated under executive orders from President Clinton. Official magazines published by the Pentagon for the troops consist of photos and articles depicting multicultural awareness.

Kelly Flynn, Keith Meinhold, Admiral Boorda's suicide and military personnel and dependents purchasing groceries with food stamps at installation commissaries are few of the embarrassments the armed forces has suffered under this administration. American troops are no longer referred to as Soldiers, Sailors, Airman or Marines but as "peacekeepers." Recruitment is down and each branch, except for the Marines, is having difficulties in filling quotas. The Army has resorted to recruiting high school dropouts, while the Air Force and Navy is spending money on massive television campaigns to ease manpower problems.

Low pay and morale is afflicting the services. Pilots are leaving the Air Force and Navy in flocks to join civilian airlines for better pay and no deployments. Enlisted people are leaving to join corporations for same reasons. When "early outs" are offered, there are more applicants than authorized quotas. Our forces are deployed to areas where its mission is unclear such as Bosnia and Kosovo. Americans are still in the Persian Gulf almost a decade after the Gulf War ended under the policy of "containment."

While the commander-in-chief is discussing troop deployments to Bosnia on the phone with a senator, he is being serviced sexually by an intern young enough to be his daughter. Military personnel have had their careers ruined and forced to leave in disgrace for the same things, though not verbatim, as what their commander in chief did. Yet the liberal establishment, the Democratic Party and the US Senate, in a show of supreme hypocrisy, absolved the president.

With all the problems associated with the military, Congress and the administration responded by giving them a minuscule 4.7 per cent pay raise. And now add Secretary Cohen's attempt to enlist help from Hollywood for image enhancement.

What has Hollywood done for the image of the military since the Vietnam War? The only positive films were comic book depiction such as "Top Gun" or "Iron Eagle." There were scores of B-movies about rescuing American POWs left behind in Vietnam. However the characters in those movies were portrayed as failures trying to recapture an ounce of glory before their time was up. Hollywood portrays distressed veterans as solving their problems by suicide or murder. In a fictional movie about Desert Storm, Lou Diamond Phillips' character commits suicide by driving into an oncoming train. Sylvester Stallone as Rambo was not a positive image of an American fighting man. Up until "Saving Private Ryan" modern Hollywood's representation of the military was forgettable. Demi Moore's "GI Jane" did a good job of ending her once illustrious career.

How many people in Hollywood served in the military? Producer Oliver Stone and NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz are two that come to mind. There are plenty of "my dad was in the Army" or "I had an uncle who was a Marine" being uttered by stars when promoting their movie, if the character they play is in the military. During the filming of "Saving Private Ryan", articles about actors complaining of rigid boot camp procedures imposed on them by movie consultants were laughable.

Hollywood plays the race card too when it comes to the military. Movies such as "Crimson Tide" and "Outbreak" have black officers countering threats made by psychotic white male senior officers. Whether intentional or not, the story lines are obvious. Despite of making comments that NRA president Charlton Heston should be shot, Spike Lee continues to direct recruiting ads for the Navy. Current recruiting ads show more minorities and women to incite a liberal mantra of multiculturalism in the military.

Fewer Americans are joining the armed forces. Erosion of benefits by Congress has made the military less attractive to young people. Disrespect of the armed forces does not come from the American public as the Secretary Cohen wishes to believe. It comes from the very administration he represents.

The president uses Medal of Honor award ceremonies to push his agenda of race tolerance rather than focusing on the deeds of the person receiving the award. Cemetery plots in Arlington sold to political contributors. Administration officials stealing towels from the USS George Washington during 50th anniversary D-Day ceremonies. Political appointees calling Marines "extremists" and now "don't harass" training for troops to teach them to tolerate gay lifestyles.

With politically correct absurdities imposed by this administration on the military, they want Hollywood to help with them with image enhancement? Modern Hollywood's record on its portrayal of the military and veterans is dismal. They should not to be recruited to enhance the image of the American military to the public. What Secretary Cohen is doing is no different than asking Madeline Murray O'Hare to be your Sunday school teacher.

When Hollywood does produce a movie or a television show with positive images of the military, it should be shown only to Congress and at the White House. It's them who need to see those images, attend tolerance training and develop a true understanding of the military.

Joe Roessler is a businessman living in Burlington, Washington and is a Navy veteran.

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