“He admires England because she is strong, but does not love her because she is English,” said G. K. Chesterton of Rudyard Kipling. The love of the nation (and the racial roots of any real nation) does not come from rational calculation, but from the mystical impulses behind love, the same kind of love most people feel for their parents or children. Chesterton contended that empire requires rationalization and justification – you can admire an empire, but never really love it.
Olympus Has Fallen is America’s answer. You can love the empire, the President, and the institutions of state in the same way real patriots once loved their peoples, cultures, and communities. After all, America has nothing left. The corpse of the once existing American nation sits enthroned at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the few authentic American patriots still bow before the throne.
Olympus Has Fallen is an apology for an American version of monarchy, an intense and irrational loyalty to the person of the President (and his family) as such. The film stars Gerard Butler as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, a member of the President’s personal guard. However, rather than a bodyguard, he’s almost a courtier and confidante to President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and the First Lady. He also serves as a kind of (very) big brother to their young son Connor. Connor looks up to Banning, and wants to be in the Secret Service himself one day. In return, Banning makes sure Connor knows every possible security feature of the White House.
Ashley Judd called in a favor so she could play the First Lady. She plans a run for the Senate so she can deconstruct her home state of Kentucky. Unfortunately, her botched plastic surgery, puffy features, and (literal) inability to portray emotion make her a poor choice as First Lady. Fortunately for the viewer, and unfortunately for the Banning and the First Family, she’s only on screen for a short time.
The Presidential limousine crashes off a road in a snowstorm and hangs precariously off a precipice. While agents desperately jump on the back of the car to try to salvage it, Banning manages to save the President, but can’t cut the First Lady free in time. She plummets to her death, before the horrified eyes of her husband and son. Some agents die too, but who cares? Banning is removed from the President’s guard and relegated to a desk job at the Treasury Department.
Reduced to an office drone, disgraced in the eyes of the people he swore to protect, and all but indifferent to his own girlfriend, Banning gets a chance at salvation when a massive terrorist attack from air and land captures the White House. The last dying White House Secret Service agent reports, “Olympus Has Fallen” to the shocked national security team, and Mike Banning is the only live asset they have left in the building. It won’t ruin much for you to say that over the next few hours, Banning will rack up an impressive body count, shooting, stabbing, and torturing his away to the mastermind who has seized the President.
The formulaic plot should not detract from anyone seeing the film. The attack scene is shocking (if ludicrously unlikely) and tactically interesting. The body count is impressive, the scenes are well shot, and it’s gratifying to see Butler return to form as an action hero after wasting time in romantic comedies for a few years.
However, the real meaning of these kinds of films lie in the background of the story and the reaction of the audience. As far as the reception of the hoi polloi is concerned, Olympus Has Fallen has been surprisingly successful. It has brought in tens of millions of dollars more than expected and is being driven by strong word of mouth. Part of this is simply because it is a competently executed and exciting thriller. However, what is more interesting is that the film managed to be a success through skillful marketing to the older, male, military, and presumably white demographic, including pre-release screenings at military bases.
To add further intrigue, there is a far more expensive and well promoted film coming out entitled White House Down, which essentially has the same plot. However, in this recounting, Jamie Foxx, fresh from slaughtering White Southerners, is a President fit for the Age of Obama, with Channing Tatum as the white rescuer. Though it’s too easy to say, early indications reveal that White House Down will be marketed as a traditional Hollywood blockbuster, which means pitching the younger and more “vibrant” denizens of these States United. Despite not being a major studio release, Olympus Has Fallen stole a march on the upcoming White House Down by courting an audience Hollywood traditionally despises.
So how did they do it? The film opens with a militaristic drum beat and shots of the American flag waving. When we see Washington DC, the camera lingers lovingly on Marines with brightly polished brass, heavily armored security toting assault rifles, and convoys of limos racing through the streets. The national security state is adored without irony, and somewhere you can imagine Justin Raimondo grinding his teeth in rage about this sentimental picture of military power.
A glimpse of some of the movie posters might lead one to think Morgan Freeman was reenacting his role as President from Deep Impact. (In passing, how innovative a black President seemed in 1998, as if they were preparing us for something . . .)
The marketing is misleading. Olympus Has Fallen takes us back to the “Real America,” with the WASPy President Asher serving as Head of State. Eckhart’s President Asher conducts himself like a solider, all grim determination, brusque gestures, and square-jawed integrity. Furthermore, the government operates as if he was Napoleon – with government officials constantly bowing and scraping before their militaristic monarch before crisply delivering briefings on the security situation, be it at the White House or in North Korea. There appear to be no other issues.
There is a brief mention of having to attend a “billionaires” party in order to raise money for re-election, but the President despises the necessity and other than that, no one mentions politics. We never find out what party he’s in, or what kinds of policies he favors. He’s just an all-American hero, a symbol of the entire nation. He resembles nothing so much as a later Roman Emperor, a legionary promoted to the purple by acclaim of the troops.
Morgan Freeman is simply the Speaker of the House, elevated to acting President after the President and Vice-President are captured (with the latter executed with almost no reaction from anyone). As befits a commoner, he has a more modest approach to leadership. Before issuing crisp orders to deal with the crisis, he gives detailed instructions about what kind of coffee he wants.
Surprisingly, Freeman is not the super-intelligent Numinous Negro President that magically saves the day. There is the required scene where he pulls rank on the white male overaggressive Army general. However, he still orders in failed rescue operations, seems unsure of what to do throughout most of the film, and ultimately gives in to all the terrorists’ demands. It takes Banning, the man whose only job is to guard the President’s life, to remind the Speaker that the country’s interests are far more important than one man’s life. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t sway the Speaker. The sacred person of the real President is more important than all else.
And what do the terrorists want? As you have probably guessed, the villains are North Koreans – just in time for increased media coverage of tensions with that nation. The leader of the group, Kang Yeonsak, is an impressive specimen who has orchestrated the sophisticated White House takeover to force America to abandon South Korea. The very first thing that Kang does is televise his execution of the South Korean Prime Minister to the American national security team. Incredibly, the Speaker/Acting President agrees to evacuate American troops and the Seventh Fleet in order to save the President’s life, seemingly indifferent to the millions of other lives this decision will cost.
While the North Koreans have an obvious motivation, they also have the help of an American traitor, one Dave Forbes, a former Secret Service agent who has joined the South Korean Prime Minister’s detail in order to betray him. When President Asher asks the obvious question as to why Forbes turned his cloak, the normally cool and collected Forbes suddenly starts ranting that with “globalization” and “Wall Street” the President had already betrayed the country long ago. There’s actually an interesting discussion to be had here. However, as that is literally all the exposition he is given, it just comes off as the ranting of a lunatic as opposed to ideological fervor.
When Kang figures out that Banning is in the White House and killing all his men, he sends Forbes to dispatch him. This should be an easy task, as Banning has no idea that Forbes is a traitor. However, Forbes somehow manages to screw it up by dropping Kang’s name, which he should have no way of knowing. Before being dispatched, a tearful Forbes admits he “lost his way” and repents by telling Kang that Banning is already dead. In this universe, it is literally unthinkable that an American would betray the state for any reason other than a kind of weird insanity.
As for the other member of the First Family, Connor uses Banning’s teachings to hide in the White House walls. Banning rescues him, and after they impossibly dodge withering automatic weapons fire, Connor is able to escape. Before he gets to safety, Banning gives him his Secret Service badge, telling him he is “one of us now.” Just as Battle: Los Angeles featured Aaron Eckhart’s Marine giving a small boy an honorary membership in the Few and the Proud, so here does the Secret Service make a bid for institutional glory, with the President’s only son dreaming of wearing the sunglasses and earpiece – even after the Secret Service failed to save his mom.
Of course, in the real world, the Secret Service most recently made the news by frequenting prostitutes in Colombia, and exposing details of the President’s security arrangements to various, uh, “uncleared” personnel. However, in this portrayal of the Secret Service, strong black womyn Angela Bassett leads a veritable army of supremely dedicated professionals ready and even eager to face death in order to save their President.
As Banning closes in on Kang, we learn Kang’s real agenda is to activate “Cerberus,” a secret program that allows nuclear weapons to self-destruct after being launched in the event of a late abort. Detonating the weapons in their silos won’t just destroy America’s nuclear arsenal, but kill millions around the country. The three codes needed are in the possession of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The first two surrender the codes under torture, but only after being ordered to do so by the President, as he swears “they’ll never get mine.” Kang plans to use Connor to pressure the President into giving up the code – but of course, Connor is quite safe. More importantly, because Banning uses the same video feed to communicate with Kang that Kang used to taunt the American government, President Asher knows his son is safe.
We’re thus prepared for an epic showdown of will between the terrorist mastermind and the President of the United States. Eckhart will be presumably tortured while screaming heroic defiance, his mangled body and unbreakable spirit interposed between a murderous villain and the lives of the American people. Incredibly, after building up to this critical moment, the film changes tack. We’re just randomly informed that the token female hacker hottie has somehow obtained the code after a few hours work, and the Cerebus countdown begins.
Kang’s final trick is to disguise his own men and his remaining hostages in all black and take them to the helicopter conveniently provided by the weak Speaker/Acting President. The helicopter explodes in the air, presumably killing President Asher, Kang, and everyone else. However, it’s revealed that Kang sacrificed his own men (and critical hostages like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) in order to conceal his own escape with the President.
Banning foils the plan, and the Cerebus plot hole allows Banning and Kang to have the required bare knuckled showdown with the clock to doomsday ticking away in the background. President Asher is wounded and watches the struggle, cheering “C’mon Banning!” as if he were at a baseball game. Not surprisingly, Banning wins the contest and manages to shut down Cerebus with seconds to spare.
During a scene that should be fraught with emotional impact, the President and his savior, arms around each other, step into devastation. The bodies of the slain are all around, the center of American power lying in ruins. Incredibly, Banning chooses this moment to make a joke about the house needing to be repaired and they laugh amidst piles of corpses.
The President issues some banalities at a press conference, the people rise as one, and Banning is returned to his favored position as bodyguard. The decapitation of the South Korean government, the military crisis on the Korean peninsula, and the decimation of the Secret Service and highest levels of the American national security team are all ignored. Instead, we cut to the waving flag as America is restored, and the President says we can eve thank the terrorists for giving us a path to a national rebirth – presumably, only because he is still alive.
The impulse for personal, even royal leadership is a universal in human history, and so-called republics are not exempt. In the Book of Samuel, the Jews disregard the prophet and God Himself and shout, “Nay; but we will have a king over us.”
America’s own dynastic tendencies are well established, and even now we debate the various political features of a never ending parade of Bushes, Clintons, and Kennedys. Michelle Obama, who has never held elected office, is spoken of as a future political leader, because being First Lady in the present era serves as a substitute for government experience. In the 19th century, an American genealogist even tried to prove that George Washington was descended from the god Odin, the common ancestor of royal lines throughout Europe.
It is easier to feel loyalty and love towards a person and family than an abstraction. It is no coincidence that countries have been personalized as female deities like Columbia, Britannia, or Marianne of France. In organic society, there is a link between the royal person, the fertility of the land, and the spirit of the people. The king is the connection between the tribe and their gods, with the royal person functioning, as Poet Laureate Ted Hughes said of Queen Elizabeth II, as the “Leader of the Tribe.”
But what happens when you have no gods? What happens when most people think that the nation is founded on the proposition that there is no nation – just a spot of land where people can come to enjoy “freedom”?
The answer is the Cult of the Presidency. It is no accident that the Chief Executive, once seen as second in power to Congress, is now the “Most Powerful Man in the World.” The prestige of the office is dependent on America’s military power – one gets the impression that if the President of the United States only became the most second most powerful person in the world, everyone would step caring.
Furthermore, with the advent of nuclear weapons, the American Head of State can essentially skip the step of serving as a connection to the divine and function as a god himself. After all, with a few simple orders, he reigns death from above with a drone, nukes any foreign adversary with a button, or even destroys all life on earth by unleashing America’s arsenal of missiles and bombs. It’s not an accident that the White House is here referred to as “Olympus,” home of the gods, especially Zeus with his thunderbolts from heaven.
The result is that American patriotism has increasingly focused on the worship of power for power’s sake. While the British can celebrate a royal wedding or the birth of an heir, the closest thing this country has had to a moment of universal celebration was the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Presidents serve both as the focal point of the cult and the executors of America’s lethal power. Pictures of the Presidents stare down at Banning as he accomplishes his mission – there’s even an obvious mistake where a portrait of President Barack Obama smirks from the background in a government building. Banning crushes one terrorist to death with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Like Roman emperors who became gods upon their death, our Presidents are with us still.
At the height of his popularity, George W. Bush able to tap into this yearning for unified leadership. Barack Obama exploited this same desire during his first presidential campaign in order to “unite” the country. Of course, in a modern democracy, the point of government is to divide and eventually dispossess the traditional founding population. In a deeper sense, there’s no “country” to lead, so such moments are always fleeting.
This leads to the great problem of empires, from Austria-Hungary, to America, and even the fictional Empire of Tamriel in Skyrim. The empire is dependent on a national core that the government relegates to second-class status in order to preserve the whole. In Austria-Hungary it was the Germans and in Skyrim it’s the Nords, but in America, it’s whites, especially whites of Germanic founding stock.
At one point during the film, the female Secretary of Defense is dragged out, presumably to be killed. In defiance, she screams out the Pledge of Allegiance. Mocking laughter greeted this admittedly corny scene – but it was entirely due to a group of blacks, who were then unable to remain silent for the rest of the film. After the movie ended, a larger number of blacks continued to jeer, and I even caught the occasional obscenity directed at that “flag waving bullshit.” Presumably, President Django will be more to their liking.
And this is the problem for the United States of America. Olympus Has Fallen actually gives a somewhat favorable portrayal of the Presidency from a Traditionalist perspective. A warrior in chief and a First Servant of the State would be a figure that would deserve homage. America could use a Frederick the Great. However, under our system, as the villain briefly mentioned, we get a frontman for bankers, parasites, and hostile alien elites dedicated to breaking the traditional national population.
Nonetheless, the white American population, by and large, continues to worship at the national shrines and symbols of the state. They bow before the office of the Presidency, if not the man. However, as America continues to become a Third World colony, the government will increase its program of deliberate dispossession against white Americans.
Meanwhile, even after the Oval Office has become an affirmative action set aside, nonwhites continue to think of America as somehow foreign to them, with traditional patriotism still identified with America’s unacceptably Aryan past. The result is that American patriotism becomes ever more alienated from both the core white population and the hostile Third World masses.
What holds it all together is the spectacle of American military and (secondarily) economic power, as expressed through the Presidency. When American power breaks, as it surely must, nonwhites will flee the sinking ship altogether. Whites will find themselves as the priests of a dead god, long since bereft of spiritual substance.
But that day is far removed, and a powerful empire can stagger on for centuries, no matter how corrupt. While the superpower stands, white Americans continue to make their offerings to the great god of the Red, White, and Blue at the closet thing our civilization has to a temple of sacred myths–the local movie theater.