Arnie Re-Wins War in Persian Gulf 8/12/94
Toronto Star

Arnie Re-Wins War in Persian Gulf

by Jean Ghomeshi

Long live Arnie!

Just when we thought that the freedom-hating "political correctness" movement was inhibiting cultural expression and invading our happy lives, Hollywood has returned with a summertime blockbuster containing healthy doses of anti-Arab propaganda to protect our Western self-image as the saviors of democracy around the world.

What a thrill it is to see Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest film, True Lies, score brilliant reviews from movie critics across North America - including cheerful laurels in The Star - and storm its way to big bucks at the box office.

After all, Arnie and his gang accomplish two virtuous feats with their latest piece of work: (1) entertain the masses; and (2) remind us all of who the enemy is. Okay, so maybe there's a few million dollars to be made too. Maybe billions.

True Lies is Schwarzenegger's most recent foray into the action-movie arena, a $120-million attempt to rescue his career after last year's disastrous Last Action Hero. It is the tale of an American spy who saves his faltering marriage by undermining a terrorist plot. It has won raves for what is being hailed as a novel mixture of "high adventure" and "romantic comedy."

Not since Michael J. Fox screamed, "It's the Libyans!" in Back to the Future (he was referring to some dark-skinned terrorists, but then aren't the two synonymous?) or Sally Field and child fled from a flock of moronic and barbaric Iranians in Not Without My Daughter - a film that thankfully enlightened me about my own disgraceful ancestry - has an American movie so capably delivered us a warning about our post-Cold War Middle-Eastern foes.

And who are these enemies exactly? Well...we're never really told in True Lies. There's a mention of Persians but they're all speaking Arabic so they're probably Arabs, but does it really make a difference? They're those brown-skinned bad guys from the Persian Gulf region - y'know, those demons who stand around in circles chanting slogans at each other and unloading bullets into the sky? I know because they did this in the movie.

Besides, these guys are really bad. They want to fire nuclear weapons at the United States and we don't even know why. Arnie and his friends say it's because they are all "raving psychotics." That must be it. As long as we're sure that they're the enemy, we can go to war against them for Western oil interests, or pump tax revenue into the military industrial complex, or distract people from domestic concerns, all with the effectively engineered consent of a public that knows, instinctively, who the enemy is.

At one point Arnie's frightened wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, cries, "They can go anywhere in the U.S., there's nothing to stop them!"

Lucky for us, we need not live in too much fear because we can spot these terrorists in a second. It's hard to miss these dark, unshaven men with shifty eyes and permanent scowls holding machine guns and wandering around suburban American streets.

More important, these Middle-Eastern villains are also pathetically incompetent. Despite the fact they have no culture other than waging war on polite Western folk, they're a bunch of bumbling idiots who can't even do that very well.

Like, when Jamie killed a small army of them by accidentally dropping her machine gun down a flight of stairs. It was great! Virtually everyone in the audience in Philadelphia, where I happened to catch the film, was laughing and cheering at the slaughter of the Arabs.

It's also fortunate that the Arabs and Iranians in the West are such a small and ineffective community they could muster only a few meek picket lines in some North American cities, otherwise we might not get to see Arnie in "true action". But are these critics' complaints really justified?

So the film is awash with racist stereotyping (not to mention that it's disgustingly sexist), but so what? Will it really have any influence on the general public?

Can we really draw any links between the demonization of Middle Eastern people for millions of filmgoers and the quiescence of Westerners next time governments initiate an unjust war that leads to the brutal massacre of civilians in the Persian Gulf region?

Nah, couldn't be.

Indeed, because True Lies allows us to blur the line between fantasy and reality, it transcends anti-Arab propaganda and enables us to virtually relive the triumph of the Gulf War.

There's Arnie, our trusty Republican presidential fitness advisor, along with media-clown Tom Arnold and other "American heroes," battling our enemies from the Gulf.

It's all very "clinical" - read no Americans die in the film - and we're handily desensitized to the death of all those Arabs because they're so stupid and so evil.

As the numerous collective guffaws from the audience demonstrate, the intended humour of this "comedic hit" underscores the ease with which the mass murder of Arabs is greeted.

And here's the punchline: Guess who's the head honcho barking orders at Arnie's secret agency? Why none other than Charlton Heston, everyone's favourite obsessive spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. Casting a well-known American gun enthusiast as Arnie's boss is perhaps the greatest irony. God bless America.

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