Professor Hanson writes today about the hullabaloo over Tom Hanks and his stupidity in hyping his latest World War II miniseries, The Pacific. The Perfessah basically calls Hanks an ignorant nimrod, only classily.
I have no issue with Tom Hanks; I think he's a fine actor, perhaps even one of the best in he world. I've enjoyed his movies, and probably will continue to do so for many years to come. Despite his political and social views, you should be able to recognize quality and talent, and appreciate it when you see it. Mr. Hank's problem is that he's unable to separate his personal politics from the actual history and so he winds up doing dumb things like calling his country "racist".
Having said that, The Pacific is, in my opinion, a stinking dogpile -- just another steaming turd layed by the Hanks/Spielberg team in a line of "Greatest Generation" films; Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, and now The Pacific, follow the same formula -- present a couple of individual morality plays set against the background of World War II, sprinkle in lots of video-game-quality violence, and if you can make it about real people -- the Men Who Were There -- then so much the better. The public relates more to Real People than they do stylized portrayals by metrosexual actors.
I think all of these movies stink for the simple reason that they don't actually educate anyone. They might tell people the story of Easy Company of the 506th, or they might introduce a new generation to heroes like John Bassilone, but they never quite put those stories in the proper context; these men fought, killed, often died, to save the world from a murderous tyranny, whether German or Japanese, propagated by wicked men compelled to cause violence, in part, because of a belief in their Racial and Cultural Superiority. You catch glimpses, but more often than not, the point of the movie seems to be to give Spielberg a chance to trot out his new-and-improved special effects.
Perhaps if Mr. Hanks had thought in terms of what the war was really about, about what The Enemy had done (the Holocaust, Rape of Nanking, Bataan Death March, and so forth) and had done some real research and written some of it into the script, the movies might be better for that additional layer or context. Band of Brothers has one episode devoted to the liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp, but the Camp and it's Horrors become a prop; what gets focused on is the soldier's emotions, evoked by the Camp itself. Perhaps if we'd had less "character study" and more "history" Mr. Hanks wouldn't be laboring under the misapprehension that it was America that was more racist than either Japanese of Nazi, or more unjust than it's enemies. He wouldn't believe that Americans have much of anything to apologize for.
The Japanese, Germans, and their Italian allies, started a war that perhaps cost 80 million people their lives (true figures will never be known), and in the following Cold War years of Communism, perhaps another 100 million perished. Amongst the prime motivators for their decision to go to war were deep racial prejudices and a desire to destroy and dispossess "The Other". Our current enemies, Islamic Terrorists, think in much the same ways as the Nazis and Japanese, Mr. Hanks -- Americans don't. They didn't then, and they don't now.
The Men portrayed in these films responded to an impulse that had no racist component to it at all; their Country had been attacked, and they had volunteered to fight and die for Her because they believed in the Cause of Her Defense. Nationalism. Patriotism. Not politics; not racism. Maybe one of these days, instead of trying to make money off history with bad movies, Mr.Hanks and Spielberg might actually read some history.