FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Cannon Films Demonizes Arabs

by

A new documentary film, titled ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS, has just premiered on Netflix. Telling the story of independent film studio Cannon Films, run by Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, it is presented as a comical jaunt down memory lane for anyone who remembered renting these B-grade pictures at the video store in the 1980s and 1990s, a kind of nostalgia piece for the generation of Reaganomics, Game Boy, and the Walkman.

Sadly, as is now becoming typical of the once intellectually-stimulating documentary genre, the film fails to account for what has been previously emphasized by Jack Shaheen in his classic study Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies A People and the later adaptation by Dr. Sut Jhally of Media Education Foundation, that the Golan-Globus partnership generated a great deal of hasbara for the anti-Palestinian propaganda machine in its heyday. In pictures like the Chuck Norris action film THE DELTA FORCE (1986) and others, Cannon Films created vile, ahistorical, senseless propaganda about anti-Semitic Arabs who thirsted for Jewish blood. Shaheen says in the Jhally film:

One reason we have not been allowed to empathize with any Palestinian on the silver screen is due to two Israeli producers, Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. These two filmmakers created an American company called Cannon. And they released in a period of 20 years at least 30 films, which vilify all things Arab, particularly Palestinians. They even came out with a film called HELL SQUAD showing Vegas show girls trouncing Arabs in the middle of the desert. I think the most affective film they have ever done, one of the most popular, and more racist is THE DELTA FORCE. Here Palestinians hijack a plane and terrorize the passengers, especially the Jewish ones. There is no form of communication more powerful than film in creating propaganda and Golan and Globus took it to another level.

This can be said for a good many other Cannon films regarding other minority groups. Though the new documentary does lightly acknowledge some of the more glaring instances of Cannon’s bigotry, the reality is that Cannon produced some of the most blatantly racist and sexist exploitation films of the period. A Cannon production that did not feature at least scantily-clad women, if not repeated full-frontal nudity, waiting with bated breath for the male hero was a rarity. Almost all of the Cannon women seemed to consistently and constantly be in a type of peril that could only be ameliorated with vivid heterosexual coitus that kept the teenagers filling the cinemas and feminist film critics like the great Molly Haskell disgusted. African men were likewise typically shown as brutes and rapists, particularly in the action/adventure films. It perhaps bears some irony that one of the ‘serious’ pictures that Cannon produced, Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of the opera OTELLO, featured Plácido Domingo in blackface and was based on the Shakespeare play that trafficked in the racist myth of the sexually-scorned African driven to homicidal rage.

Cannon Films is a perfect illustration of what the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser said in his classic essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses :

To put this more scientifically, I shall say that the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words’. In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’. All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ – the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc. The reproduction of labour power thus reveals as its sine qua non not only the reproduction of its ‘skills’ but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology or of the ‘practice’ of that ideology, with the proviso that it is not enough to say ‘not only but also’, for it is clear that it is in the forms and under the forms of ideological subjection that provision is made for the reproduction of the skills of labour power.

By creating films that were catering to the lowest common denominator while impregnating the plot-lines with misogyny and racism, Golan and Globus furthered the hegemony of the power structure and hindered the ability of a legitimate liberation dialogue to flourish. They might have disagreed with the neoconservatives on moral issues such as abortion and sexuality, but their jingoism, Zionism, and other ideological traits were truly reactionary and capitalist in vision.

I can understand this nostalgia for 1980s films, it was a period where, if one were not savvy to the brutality of American empire, a white teenager could move about the landscape with relative ease and now, in middle age, yearns for those golden days when gas was cheap, rock music ruled the airwaves, Pac-Man was the most difficult video game, and the economy was favorable to one’s particular demographic. Yet on reflection we instead should see this film as a warning, a representation of a calm period before the storm. Reagan’s economic deregulatory policies, begun by Carter and continued by his successors, have come to fruition in the most bitter and harmful ways. His failure to properly deal with climate change is now bringing about near-Biblical droughts, floods, and other environmental catastrophes. And his support for Zionism has continued to brutalize the Palestinians in an occupation that is older than our sitting President.

More articles by:

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail