When the goal was solidifying American sovereignty in 1812, the nation became defined; when the goal was acquiring colonies in 1898, Cuba became an unofficial colony; when the goal was defending democracy in 1914 and 1945; the United States was victorious.
And American movies reflected this history. The military depicted in Hollywood was almost always victorious and American military might allowed the United States to gain territories and resources that were up for grabs or possessed by others.
Indeed an entire genre of American film, westerns, was developed around this aspect of American history.
In the 1970s the American military was unable to impose its will in the Vietnam Theater of war. Ultimately the United States efforts were for naught as the North Vietnamese government was able to take over in South Vietnam. Since then American films have depicted the armed forces in less than positive lights.
One of the best films of the past year according to critics who judged it, and moviegoers who spent money to see it, was Avatar which continues this trend of showing the downside of the American military having an omnipotent attitude and attempting to dispossess a group of beings of their resource.
The plot parallels the American occupation of Iraq in that both the corporation in the movie and the real life American forces are using military strength to remove the nuisance of indigenous peoples/beings so that a valuable resource (unobtanium/oil) can be extracted from beneath the ground. And because of the collective consciousness of the American public with the Vietnam conflict in the back of their heads and the predicament of Iraq and Afghanistan on front pages, the story works.
Two things are in play here. First, with all the developments in technology and the ability of militia groups to fund and arm themselves, there is the question of whether the United States armed forces will over experience a resounding victory as they did at the end of World War II.
And how, if at all, does the cycle (army in a quagmire, film affects public sentiment in a negative way, public support for army wanes) get broken if that resounding victory is not possible. Second, when will American modus operandi change so that they are not in the role of bully via military muscle?
That methodology has not been successful in half a century and has helped to increase the contempt that an increasing number of people feel for Americans in parts of the world. And if the American moviegoers are to be believed, that methodology is not what they want.
Written by Trevor Brookins [firstname.lastname@example.org]