Friday, 20 March 2015

In Response to Cracked: Why Con Air Is NOT Conservative Propaganda

I was looking through my YouTube subscriptions this morning, and what should appear but a new video by Cracked. If you don't know these people, they do a lot of interesting posts, and a lot of their videos involve peculiar movie-related observations, but this time, they did something a bit more questionable. In this video, two of their regular contributors: Soren Bowie and Katy Stoll, make a peculiar case for the movie Con Air, in which they conclude that the whole movie is in fact "Conservative Propaganda" that promotes hateful and bigoted ideologies. At first it seems to achieve its intended purpose, making its viewers feel guilty about liking a film that actually promotes some horrifying ideas.

However, upon closer scrutiny, it turns out their reasoning is filled with flaws. Examples are taken out of context (and in some cases, distorted to better fit their argument), and crucial pieces of information are omitted. As a fan of the movie they are tearing apart, I have decided to go through each of their main arguments and expose why this whole idea is the biggest amount of nonsense since From Caligari to Hitler.

The Opening Scene 

The first major argument proposed by Soren is that the film is "pro-military" based on a single line of dialogue which is taken out of context: "It's because of pussies like you we lost Vietnam". This line was spoken at the very beginning by a minor character who does not even get a name, and also who dies in the very next scene. However, contrary to what Soren claims, the line was actually spoken before he attacks Cameron Poe. In the context of the scene in which this line does appear, Poe has just resisted being provoked into attacking this guy, and is also treated as being in the right for doing so. This character was also clearly intended to be a jerk whom the audience is not expected to sympathize with, and therefore they are also not supposed to agree with this remark. 

Diamond Dog 

In the video, Soren goes on to claim that each of the convicts represent certain aspects of society, beginning with Nathon "Diamon Dog" Jones as a representation of "Black America". He says, and I quote "He's a black militant who hates the NRA and spends his time in prison writing a New York Times bestseller about the woeful state of Civil Rights in America. He's one of the main bad guys! He's Black America". What Soren ignores is what is specifically stated about Diamond Dog's character, the key word being that he's a black militant, or perhaps more appropriately, a black supremacist.

In other words, while his motives might be understandable, Diamond Dog is an extremist and that is why he is the villain. Yes, he hates the NRA. A lot of people of many races do, and with very good reason. The part that is overlooked is that we're not just talking about a man advocating racial equality and speaking out against them. We're talking about a man who uses violence to promote the idea that his race is superior and he also blew up an NRA meeting. That is a bit extreme if you ask me. Also, he isn't even loyal to his partners-in-crime, as he specifically mentions at one point that his working with Cyrus "The Virus" is nothing more than "a means to an end" (it's implied that he is just using everyone else to get to safety, and he plans to betray and possibly kill them when they're done).


There is actually no indication at any point in the film that Sally-Can't-Dance is in fact gay. He is a bit odd, yes, but at no point does he ever show any sexual attraction towards any man. If anything, I would suspect he is either a transsexual, a transvestite, or a guy really messed up in the head who genuinely thinks he is a woman. After all, the only indication of his sexuality is his tendency to adopt a "feminine" attitude and his preference for wearing women's clothing, neither of which counts as a true sign of homosexuality. However, even assuming that he is supposed to be gay, this could actually be seen as quite progressive.

The thing is that while Sally-Can't-Dance may be invoking a few stereotypes, the fact that he is gay is never treated as something wrong. None of the convicts have a problem with it, and the only repercussions he receives are for being an escaped convict and helping a group of dangerous criminals. His homosexuality is never seen as wrong, as he is never "punished" for that or "cured" of being gay. He even gets off easy compared to the other crooks, considering he gets out of the plane crash relatively unharmed and is simply recaptured (keep in mind that the central villains are all killed in rather unpleasant ways).

Soren argues that Poe's attacking Sally-Can't-Dance during the climax is a sign of the film's propagandistic qualities, but it should be noted that he is not the only person to be attacked by Poe during this scene. Several straight man are also beaten into far worse condition beforehand, while Sally-Can't-Dance only receives a slap to the face, which might hurt a little but he is otherwise unharmed physically (the same cannot be said for some of the aforementioned straight men Cameron also beat up moments earlier). Poe also never actually displays any real objections to this character's sexuality, the only reason he attacks Sally-Can't Dance is because he, like several other convicts in the same scene, is trying to stop him from getting to the cockpit.

Now this is hardly perfect by modern standards, but this was also at a time when filmmakers were only just starting to make a conscious effort to improve depictions of homosexuals. Considering that, Sally-Can't-Dance isn't actually all that bad.

Sally Bishop

In the video, Katy attempts to defend the film by stating that there a "pros". Soren then mentions the female prison guard Sally Bishop, which he then describes as someone who "has the audacity to join the workforce in a traditionally male role and almost immediately fails so spectacularly that the worst convicts in the world get to hijack a plane". While it is true that Sally Bishop does fail to protect the plane, this is an extreme oversimplification of what happened. What isn't mentioned is the large number of male prison guards who are overpowered even more easily than she is. As soon as the convicts get out, the men tasked with guarding the prisoners are quickly taken down, and at least one unfortunate man is killed in a gruesome fashion by having a pair of handcuffs embedded in his neck. If anything, Sally Bishop is the only guard on the plane to actually put up a fight and make an effort to stop the takeover.

In addition to that, she is also the one guard on the plane who doesn't submit to the prisoners when they do take over. Her (male) boss, Guard Falzon, doesn't seem so tough once he's chained up and is easily forced into giving Cyrus information before being successfully passed off as a convict (he would have been detained for at least a few hours had Poe not planted the DEA agent's tape recorder on him). Sally Bishop never seems to truly give up, even when she is bound herself and all hope seems lost. She shows on multiple occasions that she can take care of herself.

Now one could make the argument that she does technically have to be rescued by Poe in one scene, when Johnny 23 attempts to rape her. However, Sally Bishop does have to buy him time, and does so by kicking the would-be rapist in the face. It might be Poe who ultimately pummels the living daylights out of the guy, but the only reason he arrives in time is because Sally Bishop caused a whole lot of trouble for the rapist and managed to delay his plans. She also goes on to help Poe during the climax... by knocking out Cyrus "The Virus" with the butt end of an assault rifle.


A crucial part of the film, as Cameron Poe's friend who also serves as a key motivation for his character, Soren describes Baby-O as "the one good African American who knows his place". For a man supposedly embodying conservative ideologies, Poe shows Baby-O a lot of respect, and goes through a lot of trouble to save his life for no reason other than out of a sense of honor, and literally ends up risking life and limb to get to him the insulin he needs. When Baby-O gets shot (which I feel I should point out happens because he tried to cover for Poe after Cyrus started to figure out there was a traitor in their midst), Poe does pretty much the same thing, going through a huge amount of trouble to save him. What exactly was racist about this character again?


As you can see, this whole notion of Con Air being nothing more than a "Conservative Propaganda" film is complete and utter nonsense with virtually nothing to back it up. All of the so-called "evidence" to support this theory is practically nothing more than confirmation bias stemming from examples taken out of their proper context with a general lack of understanding to how they actually appear in the film itself. If indeed Jerry Bruckheimer intended this film to promote racist, sexist, and homophobic ideas, he failed spectacularly, as that is precisely the opposite of what is actually in the movie.


  1. Great post. This is a debate worth having. I've been meaning to comment on this post for a while, just haven't had the time since I knew it would be a bit of a lengthy reply. Sorry for taking so long. I did post a link to this post a couple days ago as one of my faves of the week. On to my actual response.

    While you pose some good ideas, I'm actually more inclined to side with the people from Cracked. I do have some reasoning behind this. Effective propaganda, at least in terms of legit movies, is not always up front about having a certain viewpoint. It just has to position whoever they're railing against where the audience has to root against them. In this case, we start with a plane full of convicts. So we're already pre-disposed to disliking them. Since they are all said to be dangerous cons, it only makes sense that each of them is guilty of something heinous. For instance, in the case of Diamond Dog, he's blew up an NRA meeting. It could certainly be argued that the film portrays him as a "black supremacist" because coming from a conservative viewpoint, anyone vocal about their disagreement with the relationship between African-Americans and the nation itself is seen as an extremist. Not to mention, in order for this character to work as a villain, he has to be a thoroughly bad guy. There can be no sympathy for him. He can't just be trying to fix the system, he must be seen as trying to destroy it. Not to mention that the NRA is only one of the biggest bastions of conservatism in the US.

    As far as Sally-Can't-Dance is concerned, he may not ever be said to be explicitly gay, but he covers every gay stereotype in the book. The reason he doesn't receive any repercussions for being such is because the movie would never come out and say that this was the case. It simply supposes that he is the type of person who needs to be marginalized. Of course, his crimes are not against the government or seen as a betrayal of your own (Cyrus the Virus) so they're not worthy of death.

    Likewise, our hero has to be sympathetic. In doing so, he truly represents core right-wing values. He's ex-military, from the deep South where conservatism rules, and only went to jail because he went too far defending his wife against a guy who was clearly in the wrong. A guy who disparages a US military op, no less. On top of that, his debt to society is also deemed to be paid, as he is about to be released. He's made out to be as good a person as he could possibly be and still be a convict.

    Finally, for me, the character of Baby-O is actually a tip-off that we are looking at something that is staunchly conservative. In American literature, and later American cinema, one of the stereotypical archetypes is just what Baby-O is: a black character strictly there for the betterment of the white protagonist, The Magical Negro. This character often goes out of his way to help the hero even to the detriment of his own well-being. This sounds like a great person, but the underlying suggestion, particularly in a film where the "other" black character is a raging militant, is that 'these are the type of blacks we need.' To borrow from Soren, Baby-O knows his place and doesn't make waves. He is essentially subservient to Poe, the white hero and, thus, a "good" black. I actually wrote a lot more about this type of character in my post "Morgan Freeman & the Magical Negro Dilemma"...


    1. My point here is that it's very rare for a movie that is not actually about politics and/or politicians explicitly inform the audience of it's political leanings. Because most movies don't explain themselves in such a manner, it is open to interpretation so I wouldn't say that my viewpoint or yours (or Cracked) is definitively the correct one. I'm sure a lengthy paper could be written exploring this movie from every angle. By the same token, the signs are there. In fact, the overwhelming majority of action flicks from the 80s and 90s could be said to push a conservative point of view. A number of them do so, even now. On the flip side, I recently watched Brick Mansions which is an action flick that pushes a liberal agenda. No one ever says so, but the signs are there. I enjoyed it. To be honest, I enjoyed Con Air also, even though I'm full-on liberal and agree with much of what the people in the Cracked vid say. On a surface level, it's still a goofy-fun movie.