In his article “Culture, US Imperialism, and Globalization,” John Carlos Rowe looks at the current trend of popular support for American aggression abroad and attempts to find its roots. According to Rowe, Americans initially supported Bush’s plans for war because of the media’s cultural conditioning.
Even though the media currently endorses “gunboat democracy,” Rowe argues that this policy was not always the standard. For example, Apocalypse Now was a harsh critique of the war, equating American intervention in Vietnam to the British colonization of Africa. While the film has action and suspense, the prevalent theme remains true to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: the interference of westerners in a foreign land for their own gain is unjustified. Along with films like The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, the film industry was judgmental about the Vietnam War.
This tendency to criticize U.S. military actions, however, quickly ended. A new crop of films like Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo glorified the American soldier and made a clear division between the good Americans and the nefarious foreigners. Although Rowe argues that Rambo can also be interpreted as an anti-war movie, the fact remains that the film portrays the American soldier as a triumphant killing machine, single-handedly demolishing the Vietnamese and Russian armies.
In the late 1986, war glorification was at its peak with the release of Top Gun. The film launched a series of imitators all with the same underlying message that at least subconsciously encouraged viewers to support the Untied States military. This constant barrage of pro-war art changed the cultural identity of the nation, making Americans more willing to support the country’s war efforts.