Well, on the surface it seemed a typical Hollywood production, an American film made by Americans and aimed at American sensibilities. It’s basically a juxtaposition of violence and sentimentality, as seems to accord with two of the apparently predominant themes in the American psyche.
But I got drawn in as we mostly do when we have somebody to root for. The heroine has all the required credentials: she’s young, physically attractive, resourceful, brave, intelligent, compassionate and virtuous. She’s a poor little poor girl from a mining community modelled, I assume, on West Virginia. She has none of the luxuries or social advantages enjoyed by the elite, and so she’s the underdog who successfully takes on not only her immediate enemies, but more importantly the decadent Establishment which pitted them against her for the purpose of political control and its own amusement.
But then I got to wondering. Why does Hollywood so favour the idea of the underdog taking on the might of an omnipotent Establishment and winning? The highest grossing franchise of all time must surely be Star Wars, and who do we root for? The rebels, of course. The Empire is an evil, controlling force which must be defeated if right is to prevail. Nobody questions that. Why?
Is this simply an echo of American cultural roots, when a small but brave and determined force of colonists took on the might of the British Empire and won? Well, that seems reasonable enough. But how about looking around the world and questioning where the centre of Empire lies now, and who are the rebels? Has the canary become the cat without really noticing the volte-face?
And I’m not trying to be either wise or didactic here, neither is the question meant to be anti-American. The human condition is too complicated for that, and the human animal too self-interested for simplistic judgement. I’m just musing on why the most powerful country on earth which has a proven track record of strutting that power, often with questionable justification, should so favour the idea of David beating Goliath.