The Voice spoke with David L. Robb, author of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies (Prometheus Books, 384 pp., $28), about the common practice of studios altering scripts to meet military PR requirements in return for free access to tanks, planes, and bases.
What is the military’s objective in working with studios? Primarily, it wants positive images about the military in movies and TV, to aid in the recruitment and retention of personnel. Huge spikes in enlistments have occurred after certain movies, like Top Gun, came out. They also target Congress, so it’ll think that the military’s good, and it’s doing a good job, and keep funding the Pentagon.
Does the military see this as propaganda?
Definitely not. They see this as showing accurate and honest depictions of the military. But the head of the Pentagon’s liaison office, Phil Strub, is on record as saying that any negative images of the military are not accurate.
How do you think this long-term collaboration has affected public opinion? I believe that when the world’s most powerful military has a strong say in the content of the world’s most powerful medium, viewers are going to come away with a message: that the military is good and doesn’t do anything wrong. And I think that recent events show that that’s not true at all.