kay, here’s my Meta-distorted, Meta-witty, Met—Met—Metaphilm interpretation of what this summer’s first blockbuster thriller, The Sum of All Fears is really all about. The Sum of All Fears is really about a middle-aged, married, senior-level CIA agent, Jack Ryan, who uncovers a plot by Muslim extremists to detonate a nuclear bomb in the United States.
Oh, wait a minute, the movie is already its own interpretation because that’s what author Tom Clancy’s novel by the same name is all about. In the film, Ryan’s character is transformed into a single, twentysomething CIA neophyte played by hunk-of-the-month Ben Affleck, who uncovers a plot to detonate a bomb by, get this—neo-Nazis.
Ooh! I’m shivering.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more afraid of Arab terrorists right now than neo-Nazis. Besides being blatant pandering to the PC crowd, the whole neo-Nazi thing would be a lot more plausible if it weren’t for the fact that eBay recently pulled an auction for a WWII model airplane that had a quarter-inch swastika on the tail. The company management stated that it was against their policy to permit auctions of “Nazi paraphernalia.” When the neo-Nazis conquer eBay, then I’ll start worrying about them conquering the world.
When Fears first premiered, a great deal of ink was wasted as the entertainment press wondered whether the film would hit too close to home after 9/11. They talked about how Hollywood had in Fears produced the first film to address the issue of our fear of terrorism.
Rubbish! The producers neatly sidestepped that issue by transforming the Islamic terrorists in Clancy’s prophetic novel into nonexistent neo-Nazis. They knew full well that by doing so they would avoid any prospect of being picketed for unfairly suggesting that Islamic militants might want to—oh, I don’t know, say—blow something up?
Neo-Nazis have become Hollywood’s new fall guys—a group with so much bad press that its adherents are too embarrassed at belonging to protest being stereotyped. In the eighties we had the South Africans; now we have the neo-Nazis. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not defending neo-Nazis. They probably like blowing things up too. But there just aren’t that many of them, and the only ones you see on TV are either ignorant wretches with acne and bad tattoos from the hinterlands of Arkansas and North Dakota, or marchers obscured by the massive crowd of police protecting them from an even more massive crowd of protesters eager to rip them to shreds. They’re not exactly serious threats to national security.
Getting back to the buzz over Fears, it’s also interesting that so many writers praised the film for dealing with our collective concern over terrorism while conveniently forgetting an earlier and more important film, The Siege.
No one, in fact, really talks about that movie and I’m curious as to why. My theory is that it scared the shit out of everyone and we’d really rather not think about it, thank you. The Siege showed us the people we’re really worried about blowing stuff up right and left in New York City (talk about prophetic!) and forecast the Hobson’s choice that terrorism presents—and that we now face—between unremitting destruction or the elimination of civil rights.
The Siege is a film that really summed up our fears, which is why audiences choose to forget it. The Siege brought out the Muslim community in droves protesting the unfair depiction of their brethren, which is why the studios would like to forget it. And this is why post-9/11 Hollywood has summed up our fears for us by transforming a story about a middle-aged spy taking on some bad guys who do exist into a tale about a representative of a more economically lucrative demographic saving our bacon from the only folks we can feel good about hating—the neo-Nazis. “More Hitler than Hitler!”, that’s our motto.
It just goes to show that if the terrorists really wanted to eliminate the source of all that is useless, corrupting, and unholy in the world, there is really only one place to drop their bombs—Hollywood. Otherwise, Hollywood will keep dropping blockbusters like The Sum of All Fears on us.