Not Just a Vin Diesel Vehicle: The Pacifier as Propaganda

May 1, 2005 marks the two-year anniversary of President Bush’s Air Force fatigue-costumed “Mission Accomplished” ego trip arrival aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln, officially declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq. May 1 also (almost) marks the two-month anniversary of the theatrical release of Walt Disney’s The Pacifier, the third most financially successful movie so far this year.

Both events are seemingly unrelated but commemorate moments when I distinctly remember asking myself two age-old questions, “How?” and “Why?” without so much as a clue to the answers. But the time has come to investigate this connection. Just like I won’t let my favorite silver-spooned Commander-in-Chief get away with any further embarrassing displays of self-importance, I just can’t let The Pacifier escape with a monster box office profit without revisiting the questions: How did this movie get made, and why now? I’m not leaving this article until I find out, and unlike Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and uranium in Niger, the answers are here somewhere, and they’re real.

Try as they might, reasons for The Pacifier’s existence can’t hide if you break out the studio finance word math. Previously successful formula + bankable casting + publicity tornado = profit. This product stars hard-boiled action star Vin Diesel (xXx, The Iron Giant) as Lt. Shane “Bad II the Bone” Wolfe, a top Navy SEAL assigned to protect and play nanny to five kids ranging in age from infant to teenager. Still high on a National Treasure-lead comeback, Disney bet all of its marketing marbles on the spectacle of Diesel strapping babies to his chest and freewheeling the minivan through the burbs like a poorly armored Humvee, recalling Arnold Schwarzenegger’s drill sergeant teacher John Kimball in 1990’s Kindergarten Cop. Daunting Vegas odds notwithstanding, Americans rushed to the theaters in droves. The Pacifier easily took the box office its opening weekend and has moved approximately $104 million to date.

For any cynical film aficionado troubled by the “biz” in the movie biz, it’s easy to pass ridicule and toss this hand aside until The Pacifier 2: Armed and Fabulous comes out. But much like the Nixon Presidency and the Trojan Horse, there’s more than meets the eye. If you read between the lines and tap into your inner conspiracy theorist, The Pacifier is so suspect that you’ll see more patriotic red, white, and blue than the typical greedy greenery.

Remember the Thought Police, from back in 1984? Well, meet Officer Vin Diesel. On the surface he may be an assembly of highly trained muscles with paternal instincts and an unexpected flair for comedy, but Diesel’s Lt. Wolfe character is not just any emotionally unavailable military protagonist. His mission is more covert than babysitting. He penetrates the heart of our ideological power structure in a way reminiscent of Nazi glorifying Triumph of the Will and the Red Scare alerting Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Working on a subconscious payroll as quietly effective propaganda, Lt. Wolfe symbolically justifies the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq and America’s continual role as an occupying power.

Now, I say it loud. I’ve been Pacified, and I’m proud. Just like the Middle East, I’ll never be the same. This is brainwashing at its most kid-friendly, because they’re never too young. My first suspicions about the film’s manipulative agenda stemmed from its confusing title. Who or what is being Pacified by Diesel, the presumed Pacifier in the grand Pacification? The highly anticipated Vin vs. radioactive diaper scene fails to shed light on this matter, generating only hysterical laughter.

The Pacifier’s lame title meaning finally emerges when Lt. Wolfe embarrasses Brad Garret’s irritating vice principal character in a school-sanctioned wrestling match. At the end of a long string of “moves” Lt. Wolfe apparently learned in his rigorous Navy SEAL training, (among them, the “Chicken Wing”) we see his favorite, “The Pacifier,” where the opponent’s hand ends up in his mouth, preventing any further questioning of this baby-sitter’s authority. With that mystery unraveled, it didn’t take me long to figure out why Disney went with The Pacifier title instead of The Chicken Wing.

Beyond the wrestling world and the baby sucking definition, pacification implies freedom from tyranny, justice restored, and the protection of the innocent from outside threats. After failing to save government scientist Harold Plummer, the architect of a top-secret nuclear missile computer program (Star Wars, anyone?), Lt. Wolfe finds himself under orders to protect Plummer’s helpless family from the line of fire. While his invasion of foreign territory is initially met with hostility, he eventually takes command, restores order, and becomes a replacement paternal figure that the kids respect because he makes their lives better than they were before. Am I reading too far into the Democracy in Middle East cooperation fantasies of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and our powers that be, or does this mission sound familiar? Will it ever be accomplished?

For the sake of taking The Pacifier-as-Iraq-propaganda to another level, I have no choice but to ruin the ending. So if you’re planning on catching this madness on DVD (I’ve heard nothing but good things about the blooper reel), please stop reading now. Because it would be too blatant to pawn it off on Saddam or Iran, the fall guys are the Chuns, the Plummer family’s seemingly harmless North Korean next door neighbors, who plot to get their Axis of Evil hands on the nuclear missile secrets and use them for leverage the next time Condi Rice visits. When Lt. Wolfe effortlessly takes care of those pesky Chuns, danger is a thing of the past as the credits roll into profit receipts for Disney, until it’s time to get all Armed and Fabulous for the sequel.

Unfortunately, while it may succeed in angering Kim Jong Il more than Team America: World Police, the conclusive film ending does not fade to black for American soldiers serving in Iraq. With every given day, they continue to face the consequences of foreign occupation—the unpredictably disturbing insurgence, growing civilian resistance, government discordance, Abu Gharib prison scandal shadow, questionable reasons for being there, corporate favoritism running rampant within the region’s reconstruction, and no permanent end in sight. If America has been slandered for resisting to abandon the ship, The Pacifier serves as a great big wet dream of cooperation, harboring the ulterior motive of bringing peaceful delusions to the Bush Administration’s biggest planned legacy.

Coincidentally, this delusional dream is much bigger than Lt. Shane Wolfe. The Pacifier is the most financially successful of three recently released films that have evoked the situation in Iraq. Are We There Yet? stars Ice Cube as a bachelor posed with the challenge of winning over his girlfriend’s unruly youngsters during a long road trip. Man of the House stars Tommy Lee Jones as an undercover Texas Ranger on cheerleading troupe duty, forced to interact with the teenage dynamic in much the same way as Diesel collides with domestic bliss.

These three film titles fit together like a remedial puzzle to justify the Iraq occupation. As I previously raved like a lunatic, The Pacifier assumes a heroic restoration of peace and instatement of democracy to the Middle East, thus quieting a baby that hasn’t stopped crying since Bush Sr. was at the helm. Are We There Yet?, on the other hand, responds the impatience the American public has expressed with the remaining duration of the Iraq fiasco. Much like a child asking his parents the same question after five miles of a 250-mile trip, the expectation of a timeline for sending our troops home is unrealistic, some senior military personnel might say, in gruff, perplexed tone, “Ridiculous!” As President Bush has stated on several occasions, “We finish the job.” Unclear definition of “job” aside, Americans questioning the authority of such a statement should look no further than Man of the House for a reminder of who is in charge of this ideological battlefield.

Regardless of whether you stand on the left, right or center, it is your duty as a movie fan to look beyond the glitz of studio profit, star power, and critical acclaim. It is your responsibility to critique any further subconscious tyranny by the film industry and its unnamed accomplices. Shady tactics like The Pacifier must be stopped, and it is up to you to stop them. As we continue to fight the good fight, there is no time like the present to evoke the timeless words of three of my favorite American Presidents. The only thing we have to fear, in movies, is fear itself, in movies. Ask not what your movies can do for you; ask what you can do for your movies. And whatever you do, don’t inhale movies without knowing exactly what you’re smoking.


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