Denzel Washington in “Safe House” and “Flight”

Edmund Connelly


The gala premiere of Denzel Washington’s latest film, Flight, was held last week at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. Washington plays the leading role of airline pilot “Whip Whitaker,” who saves his plane from certain disaster. According to the trailer, however, he might be in trouble because of his drinking problem. We regular Americans will have a chance to find out this Friday, Nov. 2nd, when the film opens nation-wide in theaters.

I’m intensely curious about how African American Washington will be portrayed. What I am hoping is that TOO readers who see the movie will discuss it here at the TOO site in the comments section. I’ve already written about the background to the film in the racial context we have in America (seehere), so we don’t have to start from scratch.

Still, since I suspect some surprises, I will further lay out ideas on what it means to have Washington appear as yet another heroic figure, particularly when he is cast completely against reality. Here are my thoughts.

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First, there’s a new journal coming out whose debut issue discusses “the experience of the White man in a world his race once dominated, and in which his heritage is being taken from him piece by piece: his cultural heroes, his literature, his pop icons, his identity — ultimately, everything.” The name of the journal is Radix, and late last year I was invited to contribute an essay to it. The editors are Alex Kurtagic and Richard Spencer, founder of AlternativeRight.com.

The title of my essay in Radix is “Hollywood and the Erasure of Whiteness in American Film and Television,” following a theme I have explored for two decades. Just to review, I’ve written a series of essays on this topic in the print journal The Occidental Quarterly, where my third essay addresses the topic I will discuss today. The essay is Understanding Hollywood III: Racial Role Reversals, and I unpack the meaning of the phrase “Numinous Negro,” which we can define in shorthand as “Brilliant, Do-No-Wrong African American.”  The two leading examples of such Negroes, I argue, are Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.

By the way, Freeman’s authority is now so overwhelming in America that even when I happened last night to watch the new George Clooney film The Descendants, the voice narrating a documentary the family was watching (March of the Penguins) was that of elder Numinous Negro Morgan Freeman. How can something be very serious if it isn’t narrated by him? No wonder he has already narrated three seasons of the science documentary Through the Wormhole, a Discovery Channel program. (The Jewish Newhouse family controls the Discovery Channel through ownership of 31% of the channel’s parent company, Discovery Communications.)

About the documentary, Wikipedia tells us that “general manager Deborah Myers heard that Morgan Freeman was very interested in things to do with the universe and space and ‘asks the big philosophical questions.’” Gosh, I’m glad at least someone is thinking BIG THOUGHTS out there.

Anyway, the Numinous Negro theme should be familiar to my readers, especially my discussions of Denzel Washington movies. Last year, for example, I parsed the underlying messages in the railroad action filmUnstoppable, and the year before that briefly addressed Washington’s role in the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. (SeeWhat Would It Take?)

Washington has starred in over three dozen movies and shows no sign of slowing down. This year has been no exception. Early in the year his film Safe House appeared to much anticipation and has since earned over $200 million.

Make no mistake, Safe House is a good action flick. It ranks up there with Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series, Matt Damon’s Bourne Identity movies, and other similar government agent films. Washington plays Tobin Frost, a renegade CIA agent now making deals in South Africa. As one official describes him back at Langley headquarters, “He was one of the most brilliant CIA operatives we ever had.” Of course he’s brilliant — he’s Black.

What stood out for me was the fact that it is yet another “buddy movie” in which a Black and a White character are paired. Significantly, it is also another film in which the Black actor plays the older, more experienced, more insightful mentor to a wet-behind-the-ears young White man. This was certainly true in Unstoppable and can also be seen in Morgan Freeman’s role opposite Brad Pitt in Seven or the acclaimed prison film The Shawshank Redemption. Does Hollywood never tire of this iteration of the Numinous Negro?

Denzel Washington, who was about fifty-six when making Safe House, has a full suite of positive traits as Tobin Frost: smart, composed, physically strong, far-sighted, and above all experienced. In contrast, Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston is practically a rookie: young, impatient, and naive. While he is a decent man, he would not have transformed himself without the help of Frost. This is well represented when Weston says, “You’re not gonna get into my head,” to which the sage Frost replies, “I’m already in your head.”

Unpacking Safe House racially is not a clean-cut endeavor, however, as the Capetown, South Africa setting naturally allows Blacks to appear as a matter of course. In short, this is simply not a “Blacks good, Whites bad” kind of film. Good and bad guys of both races kill good and bad guys of both races. In that sense, it is an equal opportunity action film. Still, I’m going to have to say that it comes down on the side of the vast majority of Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington movies: the characters these Black stars play are superior to most of the Whites who appear.

Of course it is not as stark as Unstoppable, a film so slanted that I concluded that “the movie shows heroics from both Black and White. The point, however, is that only Whites are associated with bad things . . . In other words, if it’s bad, it’s White. This may seem to be an insignificant point, but when viewed in the larger context of the multicultural project to dispossess White men, it becomes important.”

We see this in Safe House when we find out that rogue agent Frost is actually working to expose the real renegades in the CIA. It turns out that that some of them are very bad — and all of these higher-ups are White. Brendan Gleeson’s David Barlow, for instance, is particularly cold-blooded as he assassinates fellow agent Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) without warning or remorse. The point is cemented at the end of the film when we learn that the CIA Deputy Director is corrupt and responsible for many murders. He is superbly played by Sam Shepard.

One final point I might make about Safe House is its reuse of the hook-nosed Arab killer image.  “Vargas” (Fares Fares) and other Arab men stalk Frost through the streets of Capetown, killing whomever they must in their mission to silence Frost (we later learn that they are thugs hired by the CIA).

This all comes out when Barlow reveals the details to young Weston, expecting him to remain loyal to the CIA. Frost, however, returns and kills Vargas and his men, and is in turn killed by Barlow. Weston then makes the choice to side with the morally superior Frost over the utterly corrupt Barlow, shooting Barlow in the chest and killing him.

As Frost sits dying in a safe house, he gives Weston a package with critical espionage information and tells him, “You know what you are? You’re better than me.” This could mean that Weston survived this episode whereas Frost is mortally wounded, but most likely it is Frost’s moral assessment of the two men: one has led a life of violence and intrigue, while Weston is still pure. Ironically, Frost’s verdict here only serves to show his own moral integrity.

As I say, this is a solid action thriller. Readers may visit the official site here where you can easily click to see the movie trailer. Oh, there is one small bit to appreciate: the secret files also include information on rogue Mossad agents.

This brings us to Flight, the second Washington film of 2012, which, as mentioned, I discussed previously. It introduces an African American commercial airline pilot—a rare bird in real life given that only about 1% of such pilots are in fact Black. Further, the plot comes suspiciously close to replacing the two White pilots who successfully landed a powerless US Airways Airbus A320 on the Hudson River in what was later hailed as “The Miracle on the Hudson.”

So why is Hollywood again ramming down our throats the counterfactual image of a heroic Black pilot? Let’s face it, flying was invented by White men and practically all subsequent advances have been done by Whites. We know this. For instance, a few weeks ago I was browsing through a magazine and found a story about a project to crash an aged Boeing 727 into the Mexican desert. Part of the purpose was to get safety information about the event, and part of it was to give viewers of the Discovery Channel a thrill. (See a promo of the show and crash here.) The magazine had this photo, among others:

Isn’t that exactly what we expect to find when talking about pilots, aeronautical engineers, support crews and such? Of course it is. Flight is a White thing. It’s just that Hollywood (and so many other parts of our culture) creates fantasy images that ultimately underplay or even denigrate what real White men and women do.

Needless to say, I don’t believe for a minute that these consistent images are “just in the air.” On the contrary, I am convinced they are part of a deliberate plan led by our new Hostile Elite to dispossess us, if not attempt to physically remove us from the planet altogether. Certainly, we saw something heading in that direction in Russia nearly a century ago.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the strategy to displace Whites follows a familiar yet sophisticated pattern, one ably outlined by French philosopher Jacques Ellul. His 1965 workPropaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes  deals with the “psychological warfare” taking place in the modern world, though I doubt he imagined then that it would be aimed against the White race. He thought modern mass education is deliberately employed as “pre-propaganda.” Thus primed, the target is susceptible to indirect propaganda, which “is limited to creating ambiguities, reducing prejudices, and spreading images, apparently without purpose.” This is exactly why the Hollywood cabal has chosen Denzel Washington and consistently uses him in the way that it does.

What is so special about film, anyway? One key aspect is that until the advent of video and computers, most movies where viewed in a theater with hundreds of other anonymous viewers. This is critical for Ellul because “The most favorable moment to seize a man and influence him is when he is alone in the mass: it is at this point that propaganda can be most effective.”

But film is just one front in this kind of psychological warfare; many other facets are needed in order for propaganda to be effective. “Propaganda must be total. The propagandist must utilize all of the technical means at his disposal — the press, radio, TV, movies, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing. Modern propaganda must utilize all of these media.” In short, no part of the intellectual or emotional life can be left alone; “man is surrounded on all sides.” Further, “propaganda cannot be satisfied with partial success, for it does not tolerate discussion; by its very nature, it excludes contradiction and discussion.”

Now it becomes easier to understand why the System refuses to accept race differences (e.g., in IQ), and why images of the intelligent professional Black male are so common these days.

Yes, “Man is surrounded on all sides.” Read a magazine and you will see successful Black men and smiling children of all races in the ads. Go to your bank’s Internet sign-on page and a happy Asian couple holding a chubby little baby will greet you, followed by shot of a professional Black man with his wife and son out playing in the leaves in front of their handsome middle-class house. (See here for examples.) In the college classroom, your professor will recite the evils White men have committed through the ages yet never tell you what happened in places like Haiti and now South Africa. Psychological warfare is the reason for all of this.

Can I guarantee that Flight will fit this bill?  No, of course not. We all may end up being surprised.  For example, Bryan Alexander, writing in USA TODAY, reveals that Whitaker not only has a drinking problem but also uses cocaine, even just before flying. Another issue in the film is interracial sex. Alexander tells us that Whitaker has an affair with a White (Hispanic) flight attendant. And as with Unstoppable  and Safe House, a younger White man plays student to Washington’s character. In this case, the co-pilot during the crash is in a panic, while Whitaker remains calm and in command, instructing his gibbering White co-pilot about exactly what to do.

Still, I’m going to bet on my hunch. After all, director Robert Zemeckis has said about Washington, “He has this gravitas. I couldn’t imagine anyone else but (Washington) for that part. And he just nailed it beyond my expectations.” Gravitas. I like that. I guess I can file it under “Numinous,” along with all the other superlatives that the character possesses.

I’m going to predict that Denzel Washington will come out looking very good in this film. I also suspect we’ll see some “if it’s bad, it’s the White guys” kind of scenes, too. I know many of you readers will balk at feeding this anti-White media monster with your dollars, but let’s face it, even if a hundred of you readers see the film, it won’t affect their take all that much. And in the process we might further hone our skills at deconstructing the weaponized images arrayed against us.

I look forward to hearing from readers.

 

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