Why We Fight. An extra credit assignment.

Frank Capra, Why We Fight.

In 1942, Frank Capra presented to the people of America, a seven part documentary propaganda about the need to fight the rising evil that is Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan. His film shows what would happen if we stood by and let this axis of evil get their way and take over the world. This movie is shown in black and white, which is a perfect way to present the threat, a world in black and white.

In the white world, we face a choice a freedom, a place where tyranny loses to good ideals. A world where there are no dictators and the oppressed are free.  A place where the allies will stand up against all aggressors and stop the flow of hatred crossing sovereign borders. A place where children can grow up in a free world and experience freedom, with a small price of being aware that anytime, evil can strike. Its philosophy is always be prepared to defend yourself by joining your local civil service station.

But in the dark world, its a totally different story. This is a place you don’t want to be in. This is a world where evil dictators have taken over the world. A world that has been divided up into three parts. Germany, Italy and Japan control large swaths of land and also control the minds of millions to serve the dictators needs. A world where any difference of opinions will be dealt with severe punishment. A world where only the birds are free. And that is debatable.

Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” documentary was meant not only to scare the American people into seeing the world in his eyes, but to counter the propaganda the was coming out the axis nations. Film making was used primarily to tell a story, including the world through the eyes of the director. For example D. W. Griffiths Birth of a Nation, despite of its technical brilliance of its time, was nothing more than a propaganda film for the KKK. What the axis nations did was take it to another level. They were justifying their need for genocide and Frank Capra saw this.

Some modern filmmakers also saw the need from this cold and bleak imagery and used this opportunity to get their message across in their films as well. One example is George Lucas and his Star Wars films. When we see the images of Nazi Soldiers lining up to listen to Adolf Hilter speak, fear sets in as we witness thousands of troops standing in unison as if it was one giant enemy, getting ready to invade any country at any time and we can’t do anything about it.

George Lucas wanted to recreate the same feeling of fear we get when we see those images of the Empire and its stormtroopers with Darth Vader leading the pack, the way we see Nazis in their propaganda. Right down to the black and grey colors with and occasional red, just like the Nazi uniforms and the red in its swastika.


On the other hand we have Paul Verhoeven’s vision of how propaganda can be used to push forward a military fascist vision that is American in origin to justify its push for intergalactic supremacy in which humans try to control the galaxy against these giant intelligent insects. This is a world where the only path to citizenship is through serving in the military. Things take a turn for the worst after Buenos Aries is decimated by an asteriod that sent toward Earth by the insects. Paul cleverly borrows certain aspects of Frank Capra’s propaganda and twists it so by flipping the message on its head.

Starship Troopers Propaganda reel.

The enemy are bugs which many people have a natural fear of, so the disconnect of the audience of the violence of the film is magnified because we are not at war with other humans. Thus the propaganda is more effective into convincing the audience to look the other way from the fact that the society they live is a military fascist dictatorship. Also Paul was trying to warn us how easily fear can negate the need for personal freedom and allow a dictatorship form as long as there is an enemy that will always try to kill us. Just like what is happening today with after 9/11 with the passage of the Patriot Act and the militarization of the local police.

In conclusion, we can see the effects the propaganda can have on a society that is already under control in a fascist state. It is useful in countries like China and North Korea, convincing people to give their quest for rights for the purpose of a nation. This also worked for awhile in Arab nations, before the populations started to wisen up and fight against their suppressors.  Unfortunate this might work in a country like the USA to convince the people hat giving up some of your rights might also be a good thing for your safety. Hopefully it’s not too late to wake up from this nightmare.

I’m Doing My Part!

The End





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2 Responses to Why We Fight. An extra credit assignment.

  1. Amy Herzog says:

    Wonderfully written, and I especially love the connection to Star Wars and Starship Troopers! Verhoeven’s critique of U.S. hypocrisy is some of the most incisive, terrifying, and hilarious I’ve ever seen.

    Fantastic semester, once again! It won’t be the same in the department after you graduate…..

  2. I really enjoyed reading this extra credit assignment. Although I have never seen this movie for myself everything you said about it was really interesting and made me want to watch the film. I like to watch movies from directors that objectify a common perception by the public, because they often make very convincing arguments. I like how you said, “This movie is shown in black and white, which is a perfect way to present the threat, a world in black and white.” I totally agree, nothing gets more black and white than a dictatorship and people who are oppressed. I also think this line was also very interesting when you said, “A world that has been divided up into three parts. Germany, Italy and Japan control large swaths of land and also control the minds of millions to serve the dictators needs.” because I kind of feel that this is what today’s world is coming to. Well at least in America it seems that people work to serve corporations and feed the rich and greedy. Really great extra credit assignment, I really enjoyed it.

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