The Deepwater Horizon Film Reminds us That Hollywood is Still a Propaganda Machine

I’m kinda furious about this:

When first watching the trailer, I tried to remind myself that it was just a movie.

But it’s never just a movie, is it?

Given enough time, I’m sure I could list hundreds of films that changed my perspective on the world. The Hours was the first time I felt challenged on my once very black-and-white perspective on LGBT rights. Hotel Rwandadespite being called “revisionist junk” by then UN peacekeeper/now senator Romeo Dallaire, was the first movie to open my eyes to the role of politics in preventing, or allowing, genocide and devastation. There are just so many movies that moved me to reconsider my stance or opinion by challenging me to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Movies do affect us, often more than we’d like to admit. Heck, that’s exactly why we talk so much about representation in movies here on the blog.

So I am a movie fan who believes that movies impact their viewers. That’s why I’m furious that there is about to be a major blockbuster that will hero-wash “the worst oil spill in U.S. History” a spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days and leaked approximately 3.19 million barrels of oil.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that people were killed and injured in this spill. I acknowledge that those losses were a tragedy. But this was not an act of necessary heroism. Those workers were not on that oil rig because it was the “right” place for them to be. They were there because it was a job that probably paid well. They were there because the company selfishly wanted to make a profit, even if that meant ignoring safety warning mere hours before the explosion. They were there because we humans are selfish beings who cannot seem to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

So yes, we should be immensely upset that 11 people perished because of the Deepwater Horizon incident. We should also be upset that millions of barrels of oil poured into our oceans.

1024px-deepwater_horizon_oil_spill_-_gulf_of_mexico

By kris krüg – Flickr: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill – Gulf of Mexico, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Maybe we could use all that anger to motivate us to make real changes; maybe we could even stop and see how those events affected the world outside of America.

I’m not the first blogger to draw attention to films with a very specific bias. The Screeching Kettle, for example, has a list of films that were designed to “set aflame” the emotions of the American public that ranges from films you might expect, like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper, to films you might not expect, like Iron Man and Captain Phillips. 

I’m a Canadian, but the interests of my country are deeply tied to our much more powerful neighbours to the South. It can be easy for us to ignore the many (often action-filled and heart-pumping) pro-American propaganda films that pour out of Hollywood. However, it’s important for us to think about how the issues playing out on our screen affect the way the viewing public understands said issues. In this film, for example, the heroism seems designed to distract us from a major environmental crime.

Believe it or not, I’m not just writing this post to criticize a movie that I find thoroughly irritating. I’m writing it to remind you (and me) that all of our films have a bias, some are just a lot more obvious. It’s always worth asking ourselves what the director is trying to make us feel. When it comes to films based on true events, it’s especially worth considering what perspectives might have been left out of what you’re watching on your screen.

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One response to “The Deepwater Horizon Film Reminds us That Hollywood is Still a Propaganda Machine

  1. Glad that someone is talking about this.

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