Oscars present war as entertainment

The 2008 Oscars proved that entertainment and the images of war are interchangeable with the entertainment industry’s political power to define, and even glamorize, the conduct of war.

While entertainers, such as Robin Williams, Drew Carey and the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, have visited Iraq to perform for the U.S. military, the Academy Awards reversed this tradition by having U.S. soldiers perform from Iraq while American entertainers watched from their comfortable seats at the Kodak Theatre.

Tom Hanks introduced the presenters by saying, "Let’s join (U.S. soldiers) down the little gray avenue in a little place we like to call Baghdad." The writer, or propagandist, who rendered his techniques of manipulating the forthcoming scene, portrayed Baghdad as if it were a dull, meaningless place.

The color gray seldom evokes emotion; using the words "gray avenue" instead of "avenue," is a deliberate representation of the entertainment industry’s ability to render a script in their favor. And most people will not understand those producing the show are manipulating them.

The six U.S. soldiers then presented the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short via satellite from Baghdad. They were standing in front of a resplendent pool surrounded by palm trees and villas: a very Orientalist depiction that represents the social and political history of colonialism. Watching this, one would forget that Iraq is in fragments.

But setting an iconic standard that war and entertainment are one entity in the perceptual frame of an absurd representation of Iraq ignores the facts. It fosters not only the extension of the entertainment industry, but the war system as well.

If the soldiers who presented the nominations were filmed from a different perspective, maybe outside of the Green Zone, and placed in the bullet-riddled streets of Baghdad, the audience may have had a more reasoned judgment of war apart from the Orientalist depiction emanating from the screens of "Hollywood’s most magic night of nights," as Tom Hanks said.

When other peoples’ suffering is subjected to illustrations of war as entertainment from the innumerable films that emanate from Hollywood, it creates a cheapened sense of reality. The viewer will look at this image and think nothing of it except that it is a movie made for entertainment purposes. The presentation of war as entertainment, however, is anything but a new phenomenon; it has been used in many wars to suppress the Vietnam syndrome.

Rather than understand the internal suffering of what war brings upon a country and its people, the entertainment industry has the ability to interpret and manipulate the setting to its favor. This in turn creates a mutual understanding or trust between the government and its citizens.

Sadly, the entertainment industry has become an extension of the war system. By glamorizing Baghdad in an Orientalist and colonialist presentation brought to you by the producers of the Academy Awards, it not only represents the glorification of war but Hollywood is also playing a role in the marginalized construction of the Arab image in the West.

One can either consciously resist war as entertainment or be content with the recreated script, a decision that is entirely up to one’s judgment.

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