New Research on Conflict, War and Culture


The first event in RUSI's Conflict, War and Culture programme has raised new research questions on the way war and conflict is portrayed in film and TV.

Click here to watch the discussion with Jon Amiel and Dave Brown

Jon Amiel LectureAt a remarkable launch of the Culture, War and Culture programme, British director, Jon Amiel, and Hollywood producer, Dave Brown, offered unique insights into the way the industry reacts to war and conflict that have sparked new research among contemporary analysts.  Amiel and Brown made a number of inter-linked points.  One was that the economy of the film industry ultimately dominated all creative decisions on the subject-matter.  The target market for any given film is now global, so action movies are in high demand, but they must not be too culturally specific.  The enemies now are aliens, arachnids, malicious computers - enemies that all audiences can share.  Politically-relevant films on war are still being made, like Restrepo, Jarhead or Hurt Locker but for all their plaudits these are not the great earners in the industry, and writers and producers find it increasingly difficult to get projects like these made any more.  The format is changing as well.  Amiel pointed out that TV series now provide some of the best creative outlets for writers on such subjects - where there could be space over a series to allow complex political issues and difficult moral choices to be explained within the framework of a genuine drama.  And high-quality computer games raise another moral dimension in the way entertainment treats war and conflict.  Modern Warfare 4, for example, is a game that allows any player who chooses to become a Taliban and attack British soldiers.

Violence, destruction, danger and conflict have always been intrinsic to action films, but as Amiel and Brown made vividly clear, the industry has its own ways of seeking out its audiences and interpreting conflict and war as they judge the fashion and taste of those audiences.  The portrayal of warfare and international conflict is changing rapidly, perhaps merely as a fashionable trend, perhaps forever. 

Forthcoming research strands

A group of researchers have come together since Amiel and Brown's presentations to outline a major new project, orchestrated at RUSI, to do a number of things:

  • A content analysis of films dealing with war and conflict in the 1970s, 1990s, and now;
  • An examination of which contemporary films and TV most influence young British soldiers' attitudes to what they do;
  • An examination of new and existing opinion poll data on the effects of cinematic fantasy war on the public's image of real wars

The results of this research will be reported throughout the Conflict, War and Culture programme as it progresses.

For further information, please email cwc@rusi.org




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