Can you believe that the 81st Annual Academy Awards are already happening this Sunday night? Seriously, doesn't it seem like just last week that we weren't giving a shit about the 80th Annual Academy Awards? Anyway, this seems like as good a time as any to countdown the Top 5 biggest Hollywood to Washington transmutations…
Star Wars (1977)
President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative was immediately dubbed Star Wars, by the press. Much of the public's focus was on the space based facets of the program, but there were ground-based programs as well.
Due to disagreement over the program's influence of Soviet dissolution, Reagan's Star Wars continue to be as controversial as The Phantom Menace and it's sequels.
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
The neo-realist Italian film, noted for its evenhanded treatment of both sides in the Algerian War of Independence — the Arab nationalists who waged a brutal campaign of terrorism against the occupying French and the French paratroopers who employed indiscriminate violence and tortured suspected rebels in a counterproductive house-to-house counterinsurgency campaign — was screened for Pentagon officials in 2003, apropos of nothing.
Birth of a Nation (1915)
Birth of a Nation, one of the most respected yet most reviled of all films, was the first film screened in the White House. Director D.W. Griffith included the following quote from current President Woodrow Wilson's book History of The America People into the film…
"The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation… until at last there had spring into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country."
Whoops, America, that was our president. Additionally, Birth of a Nation was highly regarded as the greatest American film until Citizen Kane took its place. Whoops, America, that was our greatest film for a while.
Because this was American in the 1910's, all of the previous information wasn't racist enough, so Wilson allegedly remarked of the silent film…
"It's like writing history with Lightning. And my only regret is that it is all terribly true."
In reality, it seemed like Wilson's only regret was that those comments were deemed controversial. President Wilson's secretary later claimed the President expressed no "approbation" of the film.
Knute Rockne, All American (1940)
In 1947, a Hollywood actor short on talent but bubbling over with patriotism and jingosim named Ronald Reagan — known mostly for his role as George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American — was elected as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Luckily for him and the entire U.S. of A., these were the days of The Communist Threat when every American had reason to look over their shoulder and/or rat out their closest friends and family. And, so, Reagan seized upon the opportunity and, as SAG president, spoke out against possible Reds in his industry before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in Washington D.C.
Reagan proved to have such an innate talent for divisive political maneuverings — bred in those days of Hollywood politicking — that, two decades later, the B-actor found himself governor of California. And less than 15 years later, in 1980, when the entire country was up against it and the breaks were beating the boys, the citizens of the United States went out there with all they had and won just one for the Gipper. (Followed, incidentally, by just one more for the Gipper in 1984.)
Bring It On (2000)
In July of 2003, President George W. Bush had a tough message for Iraqi militants attacking U.S. troops — "Bring 'em on!" A cheerleader at Phillips Academy, Bush knew better than anyone the power of his words… as did the creators of the 2000 cheerleader epic, Bring It On, which was no doubt playing in the back of Bush's mind as he spoke (as it often did).
In fact, can you identify the speaker of the following quote? Was it President Bush or Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst)?
"There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on."