Who Charlie Wilson's War appeals to

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(A MESH member who prefers to remain anonymous submits the following comment on the film Charlie Wilson’s War.)

This is a movie made by a highly sophisticated political and artistic mind, someone—the director—who knows all the arguments and charges and nuances of what this important episode has come to mean to various interpreters. I came away feeling that the film is aimed at four different audiences, the last of the four being the most important.

The first and most inconsequential audience is people like us, who know a lot about all of the doings covered in the story and who, like me, will find the movie to be a rather charming bad-boy fairy tale comedy involving some preposterous assertions.

The second audience, I imagine (I’m hardly knowledgable about the cinema “industry”) is the famous 18 to 29 demographic. They will like the sex scenes and proliferation of the F word. They also will delight in the parodies of Washington authority-figures. The battle scenes in Afghanistan will also be attractive to them as almost as good as video games, and about as meaningful. The geopolitics of it all will be utterly lost on them, as they wouldn’t be able to tell you what a “Soviet” was anyway.

The third audience would be those in East Texas and elsewhere across “real” America, where the story will seem to be a delightfully stirring tale of how a Good Ole Boy from Nagadoches took on the effeminate Washington establishment bureaucracy and whupped those Commies.

The fourth audience is the one that really matters to those who produced and directed the movie. That would be people like themselves: well-to-do, highly educated, politically active “Progressives” who proclaimed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that “We (America) brought it on ourselves.” To them, the underlying story is that the US supply of weapons to the Afghan Mujahedin virtually created the movement which would later emerge as the Taliban, would energize Al Qaeda by proving that holy warriors could win a world-historical victory over a powerful industrailized imperial power, and would launch the religiously-driven terrorist war against America.

Finally, as an example of the sophisticated fine touch of the makers of this film, there is the vignette early on when Congressman Wilson in the corridor of the House is told that The Speaker wants to put him on the Ethics Committee looking into the charges against John Murtha. Wilson snaps back, saying that the charges against Murtha are baseless. Only those closely following the 2006 anti-Iraq War movement, in which Congressman Murtha’s calls for the US to pull the troops out in acceptance of defeat were central, would recognize that the film makers here are trying to refute the re-emerged criticism of Murtha for being involved in the “Abscam” scandal of the time in which the movie is set. In Charlie Wilson’s War every little scene has a meaning all its own.

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Ramona Fernandez - 1/2/2008

How does Hollywood handle directing films to multiple audiences. What is the mechanism?