Culture

‘The Dam Busters’ Face Their Toughest Mission Yet: Surviving Cancel Culture

 

1955’s The Dam Busters is a brilliant film about stiff-upper-lip British bravery during WWII. Directed by Michael Anderson, it stars Michael Redgrave, Richard Todd, and in early cameo roles, Robert Shaw, and Patrick McGoohan. It dominated the British box office in 1955, and was nominated for an Academy Award for its special effects. And while its climatic action scenes look hokey today, with miniature aircraft that look like they could have been Airfix models, that’s in part because of the massive revolution in special effects the film directly inspired. When George Lucas was planning Star Wars, he took plenty of inspiration from The Dam Busters for his climactic Death Star “trench” battle scene:

Lucas also hired Stuart Freeborn, The Dam Busters’ makeup man, and Gilbert Taylor, who photographed the film’s many flying scenes, to be Star Wars’ cinematographer. Anderson would go to direct a (decidedly inferior, alas) 1970s sci-fi film of his own, 1976’s Logan’s Run.

The Dam Busters has so much going for it, and yet it could be only a matter of time before cancel culture either banishes the film to the cornfield, or alters it permanently. The film is based on the real-life exploits of Britain’s 617 Squadron in 1943 as they smashed multiple dams on the Ruhr river, Nazi Germany’s industrial center, destroying critical hydroelectric power stations and other wartime infrastructure. But the name of the squadron’s mascot, a black Labrador dog, is spoken numerous times in the film, and becomes the code word for (spoiler alert) the completion of the mission.

He’s called the N-word.

And he has his own Wikipedia page. On it, there’s this quote from Todd, a few years before he passed away, when he told an interviewer, “With political correctness which is a new concept of a way of life in this country and I think all over the world it didn’t exist when we made the original film so N***** was N*****, but nowadays you can’t say that sort of thing.”

For showings in 1950s American theaters, the dog’s name was redubbed “Trigger.” The Blu-ray presentation of the film begins with a title card from StudioCanal, the company that restored and distributed the film: “While we acknowledge some of the language used in The Dam Busters reflects attitudes which audiences may find offensive, for reasons of historical accuracy we have opted to present a film as it was originally screened.”

Will that be enough to satisfy the PC cleanup brigade? Already, there’s a one-star review at Amazon that states: “Awesome film other than the shocking racist term used, a reflection of it’s [sic] time, but shocking none the less. The main characters dog is named the n-word, the entire film including this is very historically accurate, but it’s jarring to hear the word multiple times throughout the movie.”

See also, the recent banning of several Dr. Suess books and Pepe Le Pew, and the concurrent spotlight on Cardi B. and her hit song “W.A.P.,” both at the Grammys earlier this month, and her interview(!) last year with our now president, Joe Biden.

The Dam Busters also played a minor role in an album and film that’s something of a mile marker on the way to our current “safetyism”-obsessed “woke” culture: Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album The Wall, which Time magazine famously dubbed the “libretto for Me-Decade narcissism,” and its accompanying 1982 film. In both, The Dam Busters is frequently playing in the background on a hotel room TV set, as “Pink,” the subject of bassist Roger Waters’ plot, blurs the line between being a rock star and an anti-Semitic totalitarian. (Oh, irony.) The 1982 film in particular makes the viewer wonder if Waters wishes WWII had never been fought, so that his father, killed at Anzio, would have survived.

A viewing of The Dam Busters in 2021 makes a more immediate contrast: The diligent research and experimentation of engineer/designer Barnes Wallis, who invented the skipping bomb used to topple Nazi Germany’s dams, and the brave crew who piloted the missions, versus uber-woke Harry and Meghan.

An Army of Meghans

Oprah Winfrey’s recent interview with Harry and Meghan gave millions a look into the 21st-century woke mindset and how corrosive it is to Western institutions. As Peter Heck wrote earlier this month at Disrn, Don’t look now but we’re raising an entire generation of Harry and Meghans”:

Just like the insanely wealthy Harry and Meghan, [Bari] Weiss recounts the bewilderment of one Los Angeles mom whose son’s black friend told them he was, “inherently oppressed” even though, “this kid is a multimillionaire.”

The only thing that rivals the contempt young Americans have, generically speaking, for their foundations and heritage is their ignorance of it.

On the one hand, biblical illiteracy is staggeringly high among young people. The text that shaped the whole of Western Civilization is known to a rapidly declining portion of those who are now commandeering the reins of societal power.

Ask them what they know of this book that anchored Sir William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Law,” that Shakespeare alone referenced 1,200 times in his plays, that provided the pretext for Dr. King’s seminal “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and you’ll likely get some claptrap about it providing the basis for a “misogynistic, patriarchal system of perpetual abuse.”

The magnificent contributions of Western Civilization are equally criminal these days, all assumed to be the ill-gotten gain of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men exploiting others while taking the lion-share of undeserved accolades. Newtonian physics are renamed so as to “decenter whiteness,” and that’s just the beginning.

This mindset disregards truth as subjective but mandates “latinx” and “womxn” as actual things.

It pretends to be “speaking truth to power,” when it is itself the power, forbidding anyone to speak against it.

It bludgeons capitalism and wealth creation even as it demands reparation and debt forgiveness.

Curiously, despite feeling “inherently oppressed,” wokeness also allows for plenty of “chronological snobbery,” as a 2019 article at sister site RedState noted: “C.S. Lewis coined the term ‘chronological snobbery.’ It is defined as the belief that ’the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior to that of the present, simply by virtue of its temporal priority or the belief that since civilization has advanced in certain areas, people of earlier time periods were less intelligent.’ If we add, ‘and therefore wrong and also racist’ to this definition, we would have a perfect definition of today’s SJWs. Historian Larry Taunton defines it as ‘imposing the mores of our own time on those who lived in another.’”

Prehistoric Wokedom

Of course, England has seen the equivalent of “wokedom” and “safetyism” before, as Jonathan Last of the now-defunct Weekly Standard wrote in 2005:

Why did it all crumble? Several interrelated reasons — among them the grisly fact that England had lost virtually an entire generation of future leaders in the trenches of Europe. But another important cause was the waning of confidence on the part of liberal British elites, whose pacifism evolved into anti-patriotism.

In 1933, the Oxford Union — a debating society and one of the strongholds of liberal elite opinion — held a debate on the resolution “this House will in no circumstances fight for king and country.” The resolution passed. Margot Asquith, one of England’s leading liberal lights, wrote that same year, quite sincerely: “There is only one way of preserving peace in the world, and getting rid of your enemy, and that is to come to some sort of agreement with him… The greatest enemy of mankind today is hate.”

Churchill disdained the new liberalism, mocking one of his opponents as part of “that band of degenerate international intellectuals who regard the greatness of Britain and the stability and prosperity of the British Empire as a fatal obstacle…” So deep was this liberal loathing of empire that even as the first shots of World War II were being fired, Churchill’s private secretary, Jock Colville, witnessed at a theater “a group of bespectacled intellectuals” who, to his shock, “remain[ed] firmly seated while ‘God Save the King’ was played.”

These elites could see evil only at home. The French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir did not believe that Germany was a “threat to peace,” but instead worried that the “panic that the Right was spreading” would drag France, Britain, and the rest of Europe into war. Stafford Cripps, a liberal Labor member of Parliament, feared not Hitler, but Churchill. Cripps wrote that after Churchill became prime minister he would “then introduce fascist measures and there will be no more general elections.”

In an important sense, the British Empire’s strength failed because its elite liberal citizens stopped believing in it.

Which was one of the reasons why, after the Battle of Britain, Churchill referred to the RAF as “The Few”: “Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Flashforward to 2021: In his recent New York Post column, Glenn Reynolds wrote that “To defeat woke tyrants, the rest of us must treat them like the monsters they are”:

The woke think of themselves — and want everyone else to think of them — as deeply moral. If they have a flaw, it’s that they just care too much. They’re too idealistic, too empathetic, too eager to make the world a better place.

That’s bulls–t (pardon my French, Pepé!). If you look at what they do, rather than what they say about themselves, it quickly becomes obvious that the woke are horrible, awful people, and they should be treated as such and reminded of this whenever they raise their head.

A recent Babylon Bee headline read, “Instead Of Traditional Warfare, Chinese Military Will Now Be Trained To Shout Wrong Pronouns At American Troops.” Note to Snopes and the New York Times: that headline is satire. At least for now — Babylon Bee stories have a worrisome trend of eventually becoming true.

The comparison of The Dam Busters to Harry and Meghan, and much of “woke” England, is a reminder of why today’s leftists want it canceled. Yes, the N-word is very bad, and shouldn’t be uttered under any circumstances. And yes, The Dam Busters, as an allegory of Britain’s role in defeating National Socialism in WWII shouldn’t be forgotten.