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PacNet #14 – On Rambo and Burmese Politics

Rambo IV is a technically well made, exceedingly bad film. One of its no doubt unintended consequences has been to raise both hopes and fears among the Burmese people (depending on where along the political spectrum one sits) while potentially making today’s already bad situation even worse.

The movie’s simplistic characterizations of whole peoples and its rudimentary reduction of complex and historic ethnic and political relations are almost as disturbing as its egregious violence. It reverts to a barely modernized 19th century concept of the “white man’s burden” – saving the natives from other evil natives (or more accurately saving other white men who were saving natives from other evil natives). Its message to Americans is one of reluctant cynicism leading to a reserved altruism on the part of Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). It also reinforces the stereotypical portrayal of the abominable Burmese military bent on genocide against the peaceful, helpless ethnic Karen minority.