Five Political Films That Have Caused Uproar In America
Cinema seen by older, more conservative generation as influencing young liberal voters
The film portraying Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser has been the focus for many U.S. news media organizations covering the protests around U.S. embassies in Arab Spring nations this week.
It’s sensational. It’s viral. And it plays into the anti-Islam sentiment bubbling beneath the surface for some members of the American audience.
“The Innocence of Muslims,” the amateurishly produced anti-Islam film, is said to be the cause of at least two violent protests in Egypt and Yemen. In Libya, violent protest and an RPG attack killed American diplomat Christopher Stevens.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Hollywood movie or independent film that, because of its content or message, caused deaths on American soil. But plenty of films – more often political statements by the directors or screenwriters – have been the cause of numerous uproars and boycotts stateside.
Right wing and religious conservatives have long bemoaned the liberal slant of Hollywood. This week, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights released a statement blasting President Barack Obama and his administration's quickness to quell the international uproar over the anti-Islam film.
“We are constantly drawing attention to the Catholic bashing that takes place in the arts, the entertainment industry, the media, and elsewhere,” Donohue said on Thursday. “Yet no one in the Obama administration has ever expressed the slightest interest in condemning anti-Catholic fare.”
In several facets of popular media, conservatives feel their values are attacked, as reflected in the New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait, “The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy Is on Your Screen.”
“[Obama’s] campaign also mobilized younger voters by tapping into fears incessantly expressed in movies and television: cultural retrogression (Mad Men), greedy businessmen (The Simpsons), misbegotten wars (Syriana), environmental neglect (Wall-E),” Chait wrote for an August issue.
None of the aforementioned cinematic works or television productions caused noticeable controversy, but the five movies in our list did. In most cases, the filmmakers went on to lead altered lives or the films themselves were banned from public screening.
The Birth of a Nation
Based on The Clansman, an early 20th century novel, this 1915 silent film was banned in several U.S. cities, after large protests spark by its in-your-face racist message. In it, African American men are portrayed as dumb, sexually aggressive brutes. The Ku Klux Klan is cast as a savior for a white America endangered by unruly blacks.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s life was altered drastically by a series of projects that riled up his political enemies. This film deconstructed the many theories to how America was led into the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It became the highest grossing documentary of all time and resulted in several credible threats on Moore's life and physical attacks in broad daylight.
Bowling for Columbine
This Moore film, made after the Columbine High School shooting massacre, enraged gun rights advocates and propelled its director to the success and grief he’d find with Fahrenheit 9/11. It won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2003.
Do the Right Thing
Film critics enraged film director Spike Lee and black audiences by their insistence that the movie would incite race riots among African Americans audiences. It went on be ranked among the best political, social commentary films of all time. Lee went on direct several other critically acclaimed films, as well as a few box office duds.
Passion of the Christ
With it’s “R” rating and charges of anti-Semitism, this film debuted to much debate and uproar in the religion community over it’s biblical accuracy and promotional tactics to ensure it galvanized the a particular audience. One of the film’s producers, actor Mel Gibson, made tabloid papers for hurling anti-Semitic remarks at a Los Angeles area police officer. The incident fueled speculation that the film’s makers were trying to bash Jews.