Red Dawn: A Portrayal of Villainous America?

Via Instapundit comes this astounding piece of in Slate by David Plotz: Red Dawn: Its portrait of Russia is dated. Its portrait of America is timely—and terrifying.

Red Dawn embodies conservative nutterdom in a way few films not made by Mel Gibson have ever managed. If Ann Coulter made a movie, it would look like Red Dawn. This is thanks to director John Milius. Apocalypse Now screenwriter, Conan the Barbarian auteur, and former NRA board member, Milius is a military zealot, infatuated with the warrior code. Red Dawn is really a fetish movie, an ode to guns and blood.

Red Dawn DVD

A “fetish movie”? An “ode to guns and blood”? It might be, I guess. But if it is, there are hundreds of action movies, most of them not military-themed, much more deserving of the titles.

Plotz points out that Red Dawn is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the “most violent” movie ever made. It apparently got this record by having 134 separate acts of violence, more than any other movie. I watched it again not too long ago, and I guess I’ve got to say that most of the violent acts are pretty tame by most standards.

Plotz goes on to write

But what’s most unsettling about Red Dawn today is not its infatuation with the warrior death cult. It’s that the movie’s historical parallels have been turned upside down. In 1984, the Soviets of Red Dawn represented, well, the Soviets, and the Wolverines represented both the Americans and also the plucky Afghan mujahideen then defeating the Red Army in a guerilla war. But on re-viewing, Red Dawn isn’t a stark reminder of Cold War fears. Rather, it’s a pretty good movie about Iraq, with the United States in the role of the Soviets and the insurgents in the role of the Wolverines.

This scene was cut just weeks before Red Dawn\'s release after the San Ysidro McDonald\'s massacre

This scene was cut just weeks before Red Dawn's release after the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre

He then goes on to list all sorts of things which prove his point, but at the end of his article he admits that “Red Dawn is not an exact parallel to our situation.” He points out the things at odds with his parallel, and it sure seems to deflate his whole point. What he seems to be missing is that the portrayal of the invaders in the film was pretty much a cardboard cut-out caricature of the evil Commie bastards, while at the same time he’s taking what appears to be his own cardboard cut-out caricature opinions of the US military in Iraq and comparing the two. In short, he seems to be saying his ill-informed opinion of the campaign in Iraq is eerily similar to his ill-informed opinion of the film Red Dawn.

Also, I’m wondering if the deleted scenes section of the DVD includes the plot about how Patrick Swayze and the Wolverines spent most of their time killing and terrorizing civilians instead of attacking enemy troops. I don’t remember that part, but if it’s in there somewhere the comparisons between the US freedom fighters and the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq would hold up a bit better.

I haven’t picked up the collector’s edition DVD yet, but I think it’s high time I did so.

Also, while Plotz spends all sorts of time telling us who Milius is, what he’s all about, and how he shuck his political messages into the film, he didn’t bother telling us what Milius said the film was about. Milius says the Soviets, Cubans, and Nicaraguans actually represent the US Federal government and that the movie is basically about gun control.


  1. Murdoc, you are going to give yourself a stroke if you keep reading left-wing garbage on Slate and

    In the 80’s, my friends and I thought “Red Dawn” was a cool movie about killing commies. I still stop and watch if I come across it while channel surfing. The battle scenes are a little silly to me now – Spetsnaz troops might know how to fire and maneuver against an ambush of unaimed AK fire.

    Sometimes caricatures of bad guys are accurate. The first time I laid eyes on a captured Republican Guard officer, I didn’t believe it – he was right of bad-guy central casting. He was wearing a clean, pressed dress uniform with ribbons in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert. Like a dark-skinned SS officer. In fact, he kind of looked like Colonel Ernesto Bella from Red Dawn.

  2. What Bram said…………the guy’s an idiot! Oddly enough he says idiot things.

    My ony regret is I can’t magically transport hate America first and always types like him to the socialist paradise of his fantasies for a few years……….just to let him see how much he missed out on.

  3. Bram,

    That’s absolutely true. It usually only takes one short trip to most any other nation to understand just how well off we Americans are, in every sense of the word.

    Heck, my son is just discovering that in his first deployment, and that is over to Germany. 🙂


  4. What a maroon.

    I quite like this movie. I’ve watched it a few times. The whole “terrorist = freedom fighter” argument is something I’ve thought about.

    In the end, I think it really comes down to a question of whether what you are fighting for is just, to determine whether it’s valid to fight for it. If the USA were ruled by a dictator who frequently liquidated his political opponents, or just people he didn’t like – including sometimes whole towns – had invaded Mexico, etc. etc. and IF the invading forces were just there to restore a proper government then I could see how you could argue the Wolverines were like Iraqi dead-enders/Ba’athists/etc. However I see no hint of such a situation in the movie. In fact it portrays the invaders as the ones who are committing acts of mass punishment, murder, re-education, etc. Thus in my opinion what the Wolverines are doing is perfectly just – they are fighting against oppression.

    So in other words it isn’t whether you’re fighting for or again the government or invaders that matters, it’s whether you’re fighting for or against the oppressors or not that matters. Are these people really so stupid that they conflate those things?

  5. Bram: I only read Slate when someone points it out, usually over some outrage or other. Otherwise, yeah…I’d probably have a stroke.

    Flanker: Yeah, it’s like when idiots compare our government to the Nazis…it’s clear that they don’t really know anything about Nazis.

    Tim: The haters never seem to notice that people don’t sail boats FROM Florida TO Cuba or jump fences or swim rivers to get OUT of Texas and Arizona INTO Mexico.

    Nicholas: You are exactly right. In fact, I’ve got a number of things to say about that exact topic but I think I’ll save it up for a post.

    One thing, though. I remember being about 12 or so and arguing with a high school kid that the Rebels in Star Wars were the outlaw criminals and the Empire was the legal government. He told me I was an idiot if I thought Luke Skywalker was the villain and Darth Vader was the hero and just didn’t get it when I told him I wasn’t talking about good and evil but legal and illegal. We argued for at least an hour, and that’s always stayed with me.

  6. I like how people in the media fixate that this guy was an NRA honcho of some sort, and therefor must have made some sort of crazy and dangerous propaganda for guns and gun violence. In the meantime, the other three hundred and eighty gajillion movies out of Hollywood that have people getting shot and blown up all have the proper message at the end that guns are bad, as demonstrated by the fact that half the cast and crew were on the board of Hand Gun Control Inc. That bias never seems to bother anyone. But one lonely little movie gets people up in arms?

    I remember watching Shoot’Em Up a while back because the name seemed to say it all, and I like some good mindless action once in a while. Then, after billing a movie as being nothing but mindless fun gun fighting and killing, they had a message in the end that it was all caused by some big bad gun company (If I recall correctly, it was something like that anyway). So its OK to show a movie where people kill mindlessly at random, and murder is as easy as just point and click, but if you make a movie where people have to make a moral decision to fight and kill, and lose their friends and their own lives in defense of something greater than themselves, you are a violent gun nut.

    But I don’t think those people on the left that seem to be arguing this are that stupid. I think they really do, at least subconsciously understand that it is about gun control and therefor people control. And despite being a fairly cheesy and far-fetched movie, it did demonstrate to a lot of people, especially young boys like myself growing up in the eighties, that sometimes people should be prepared to defend themselves and their loved ones. To a socialized mind, that kind of attitude can’t be allowed. Someone that claims to have their own moral code and the power, and right, to follow it will always be a threat to the ever tightening grip of progressive socialist control.

  7. I really enjoyed “Red Dawn,” sure it was over the top, but it was good stuff, taken in the spirit that it was filmed. You want some real irony though, I like watching Rambo 3 as he goes into Afghanistan to fight the Russians, and helps the heroic Afghani against the Russian occupation forces.

    Mousa: This is Afghanistan… Alexander the Great try to conquer this country… then Genghis Khan, then the British. Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they never be defeated. Ancient enemy make prayer about these people… you wish to hear?
    Rambo: Um-hum.
    Mousa: Very good. It says, ‘May God deliver us from the venom of the Cobra, teeth of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’ Understand what this means?
    Rambo: That you guys don’t take any shit?
    Mousa: Yes… something like this.

  8. Waht amuses me about the lefties tht Claim to have watched this movie is , they call it a chest thumping flag waving movie.

    IT is really not that at all, in fact EVERYONE DIES! well except for the 2 kids that decided to get out while the getting was good.
    also Once the Spetz showed up the Wolverines started to get their asses handed to them by pros, the did fairly decent agisnt poorly trained Cuban conscripts, but agisnt the pros…….

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