Australian apologist JOHN SMITH looks at the message behind cinema blockbuster Independence Day.

John Smith
John Smith

As a science fiction buss, I prepared to see the acclaimed American film Independence Day. The plot appears to be a rehash of The War Of The Worlds restated as an ideological statements of American ethnocentrism. A few moments of computer-aide special effects were spectacular but the far less acclaimed other US offering, The Arrival, had be on the edge of my seat more often.

The arts are rarely pute entertainment or even simply creative expression of artistic genius. It would be rare artists whose creations are truly independent of existing value systems and social aspirations. The genius of modern art forms has been the capacity to stimulate, mystify and identify with human experience by nuance rather than propaganda. Independence Day was the latter.

As a fish is probably not overly conscious of its watery domain, probably most Americans would be unaware of the extraordinary level of social and political world view that is distinctively American. In an era when the common enemy of the communist "evil empire" has disintegrated, a distraction must be found to redirect attention away from the growing soulnessness and social disruption of the triumphant empore.

The spiritless, secular materialism in Western democracies - particularly among the young, as the recent United Nations worldwise survey indicates - demands ever more diversion. So the enemy now must be beyond the world community; it's THEM out there. And - wonder of wonders - a white glamorous but shallow president repositions America as the saviour of the world.

What the social psychologists call manifest destiny theory is revived with a vengeance in the lightweight entertainment mire. White America's sense of moral direction and global mission was birthed in a somewhat diverse context of French revolutionary agnosticism and pietistic refugee dreams of a new world Kingdom of God marked by communitarian morals and solid Protestant work ethics.

Now, of course, pluralism and secularism have severely fractured the unifying dream and a plethora of entertainment analgesics, from MTV to Hollywood movies, become the brief respite and escape from the news of growing disintegration of disillusioned youth and hostile interchanges between fundamentalist libertarians and fundamentalist Christians.

I am tired of semiartistic cons that pretend to be purely escapist art but are really thoughtless, careless popularist propaganda exercises. I'm equally disturbed that those whose understanding of religious (in the best sense of the word) history and the dilemma of human nature remain in the obscurity of academic institutions. High culture analysis is a huge source of tenure and comfortable living for sociologists and even theologians.

Popular culture, meanwhile, leads a fearful and powerless citizenry into pleasant diversions, sanctifying puerile nonsense and providing staged solutions to serious problems of faith, meaning and community. Art that is not elitist, and at the same time not trite and silly in its underlying message, is what I hanker for. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.