USMC Entertainment Liaison Not About To Let The Marines' Good Name Be Dragged Down By 'Low-Culture' Reality TV

from the save-that-shit-for-the-Army dept

Spy Culture has done it again. It has obtained over 1,600 pages of reports from the Marine Corps’ entertainment liaison office — a satisfying follow-up to the 1,300 pages it snagged from the Army’s office.

Once again, there’s tons of duplication, thanks to iterative updates that add very little to previous versions of the same report. The Marine Corps seems less gung ho about praising every project it’s attached to than the Army, but still finds most of the projects presented to it to be agreeable.

There are exceptions, of course.

“NCIS-Investigation” – Discovery Channel: Discovery Channel program which details NCIS. They wanted to cover the case of [redacted] , a Marine who murdered a Marine spouse and conspired to have legal members assassinated. [Redacted] is currently serving life in prison. Episode is cancelled due to [redacted] case pending another appeal. Producers are now looking at case of [redacted], a Marine who murdered Susette Bluing in 1978. Due to subject, Marine Corps may decline support.

Probably a sensible decision, considering the possible legal ramifications. What doesn’t make sense is the office’s redaction of the name of Susette Bluing’s killer, Michael Johnson. Of course, this may be the result of software automatically stripping names or an across-the-board redaction policy, rather than a misguided attempt to bury information already made public.

The same thing happened during the discussion of a project the Marine Corps does support: a film about Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer who accompanied the body of killed-in-action Chance Phelps back to his hometown.

“Taking Chance” – HBO Films: HBO produced an original film about [redacted’s] experience serving as an escort officer for the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps. Release date on HBO is expected to be sometime in January or February 2009. Show has been scheduled to premiere on HBO, 21 February at 8 pm. LAPAO is attending local screening on 16 Jan. The screening at Twentynine Palms is scheduled for 17 February. Date for Dover AFB screening is pending. Currently awaiting VIP guest list from Marine Corps museum and HBO.

Here are a few projects the Marine Corps had “concerns” with:

“Ru Paul’s Drag U” – Logo Television: RuPaul’s Drag U is an American reality television series where everyday women compete in a series of challenges to unleash their inner diva. Initial request came to LA PA for support and was denied due to not keeping with Marine Corps traits. LA PA informed the production that casting could be conducted, but no filming could take place aboard base and military participants cannot discuss their affiliation with their individual branch of service. Two Marines from CPEN contacted LA PA to determine if they were eligible. I MEF PA was informed about USMC concerns and provided guidelines for participation. The two Marines elected not to participate.

“Combat Outpost: Afghanistan” AKA “Afghanistan: The Surge” – PBS: Hodierne Productions LLC produced a character-driven documentary about Marines serving in Afghanistan. The two-hour film focused on Marines and corpsmen from 2nd Platoon, A Co., 2/1. The producer was embedded during the company’s 7-month deployment to Helmand province. LA PA reviewed rough cut on 9 April and had major concerns with both the message behind the film and multiple OPSEC violations. Overall intent behind the movie seemed to be a condemnation of policy and of the USMC’s mission in Afghanistan. The overall tone was failure and hopelessness despite the efforts of the Marines and Navy corpsmen. LA PA is re-engaging Production Company to discuss rough cut corrections.

[Rightly concerned if recordings captured “multiple OPSEC violations.” However, anything off about the “message” would seemingly be similarly self-inflicted…]

The Fighting Season Documentary: Ricky Schroder Productions documentary that will profile deployed Marines with Regional Command Southwest while conducting operations in Afghanistan. Army is the DoD service lead, a signed PAA is in place. Coordination with RC-SW has been made and a USMC-specific addendum has been signed by all parties involved. Update: concerns at OSD regarding the production company’s financial condition.

And here are a few of the requests the Marine Corps entertainment office listed as “DENIED,” leading off with the “concerning” RuPaul.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” – Reality show requested female Marines to place contestants through a mini boot camp with makeovers and gown dresses as prizes for the Marines. The contestants (not Marines) would be dressed in drag for the show. Request denied 28 July due to not reflecting upon Marine Corps’ values and the possibility of discrediting the Corps.

“Fat Free Fiances” – Style Network: Requested to “challenge” one of their couples to go through a Camp Pendleton obstacle course. The production would not further the American public’s understanding of the Marine Corps’ core values, roles and/or missions…

The USMC is apparently not as taken in by “reality programming” as the rest of the country (or the Army) is. Several denials await for bottom-of-the-barrel programming. And who knew motorcycle safety was such a concern?

“MTV’s Nitro Circus” – MTV: Producers of the show, which features champion motorsports competitor Travis Pastrana and his crew of “top action sports athlete buddies,” contacted us requesting to shoot an episode on Camp Pendleton. They wanted to perform myriad dangerous stunts and low-culture antics in concert with military members, and they requested access to several areas on the base, military equipment including a tank, and personnel including at least one drill instructor. We denied the request based on the obvious conflict of interests with the hot topic of motorcycle safety in the Marine Corps.

“Shore Patrol”—Sony Pictures: Producers met with liaisons to discuss possibility of covering service members on liberty in foreign ports. Due to risk of embarrassment to service members and host nations, all branches denied support.


“Cut in Half” – Spike TV: Producers of this show cut large vehicles straight down the middle and give viewers an intimate look at and knowledge of the guts of the vehicle. CGI and narrative are used in addition to the actual cut-in-half portion. Producers contacted LA PAO requesting to cut a Marine Corps vehicle – past or present. LA PAO turned down the request after speaking with Mr. Martin Durette at Fleet Support Division in Barstow. Mr. Durette advised that all “retired” or damaged vehicles are subject to rehabilitation on some level and cannot be cut in half.

“Megadrive” – MTV: This brand new series would feature host Johnny Pemberton, an inexperienced young man learning how to operate “Mega vehicles.” He would relate to the target audience in a way never before explored by other extreme vehicle programs. Producers asked if we could let their host drive and fire an Abrams tank, drive an MRAP and fire a Javelin rocket at a car. LA PA denied request based on the low-brow nature of the programming and the fact that it would be a gross misuse of DoD assets.

“The USMC’s entertainment office has reviewed your script and has determined it sucks. Hard.”

Dancin’ in Iraq – Rossi Filmworks: Scriptwriter Mike Rossi sent over the script for review. Film centers on a crew of Navy nurses in Baghdad who start a dance troupe to “stay sane.” Script is abysmal. The dance troupe is actually a small, virtually insignificant subplot. The central plot focuses on a romance between a Marine commanding officer of a “combat hospital” in Baghdad and his XO, a Navy Lt. Cmdr. LA PAO advised writer we will not be supporting due to various plot lines.

This postscript added the following month indicates Mr. Mike Rossi is not receptive to criticism.

Mr. Rossi contacted LA PAO by email after the request was declined. His verbal threats were considered unfounded and all other branches were notified accordingly.

And yet, throughout the 1,669 pages, the USMC never once notes what “opposing forces” it would find acceptable.

“Red Dawn” – MGM: Producer, Tripp Vinson, forwarded the treatment for the remake of the 1984 film. LA PAO has reviewed the script and will not support in accordance with DoD Entertainment Office reply unless production is willing to change the opposing forces in the script.

While explained in more detail the following month, for thirty days all anyone knew was any Lyman project was off-limits.

Tucia Lyman’s project.

Marines’ pocket contents: officially unexciting.

“Modern Marvels: What’s in Your Pocket” – Producers wanted to talk to Marines about what tools, gadgets and aids they carry around in the pockets of their combat uniforms and then go into the factories that make those products. LA PA denied support for this particular concept because of the unlikelihood that the contents of a Marine’s utilities would be particularly compelling or enhance public understanding of the Corps.

Marine recruiters are not to be mocked, nor asked to participate in frivolous escapades.

“Dough” – Independent producers requested our support for an unscripted, improvisational comedy involving a pizza deliverer wanting to improve his life. There is a scene where the antagonist visits a Marine Corps recruiter and decides to not join the Marine Corps. LAPAO denied their request because there is no distribution and recruiters are not actors, nor do they do improv.

“Mitchel, Mitchel, Mitchel and Mitchel” – Producers wanted to use a Marine recruiting office to film a scene in which military recruiters agree to illegally enlist a bum in place of one of the privileged, upper class main characters. LA PA denied support because of the mischaracterization of recruiters.

For those who play games more frequently than they watch terrible TV shows, the USMC has been involved in several video game projects.

Operation Flashpoint 2
29 vehicles provided for sound recordings

No formal support is being offered to Operation Flashpoint 2 due to anti-China sentiment.”

Doom 4
Weapons familiarization and tactics

Six Days in Fallujah
Unknown form of “support” pre-approved, then rescinded as game’s negative publicity increased

Ace Combat
Assets and footage

Fallout: New Vegas
Sound recordings of demolitions

Halo: Reach
Sound/visuals of an MV-22 Osprey

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Footage for CGI purposes, possible inclusion of Marine Corps in game

“Call of Duty 5”
footage and sound of [military] exercise

Company would like access to a Tank, and LCAC, and a C-130.

Modern Warfare 4
Audio/video of interior/exterior of USMC air and ground vehicles

Bad Company 3
Dialogue touch-up for radio protocols

“Unknown” – Sega of America
“A lawyer with Sega of America requested to use the trademarked Eagle, Globe and Anchor as part of their mechanized robot video game. LA PA is currently waiting for an English version of the treatment and script.”

LA PA reviewed the script and denied support because a Marine major is a central villain. LA PA also provided guidance to the developer from the Marine Corps Trademark and Licensing Office, clarifying what designs and words can and can’t be used in the game.”

Madden pro football offering, however, was not one of them, what with a Marine “going rogue” and breaking the USMC’s “no endorsement” policy.

“Madden” –EA Sports: A Marine from First Recon had been working with an advertising agency to do a commercial for the game. Contacted both the Advertising Agency and the Division/MEF PAOs to tell them that we will not be supporting this production.

Overall, the USMC’s entertainment liaison reports are far less exuberant about the possibility of TV and movies being used to spread the good word about the armed forces. In its more restrained way, the Marine Corps still only assists with projects that portray the military branch in a favorable light and, like other agencies, is often given draft versions of scripts to ensure it doesn’t open itself up to spending tax dollars on content that might reflect badly on it.

It also seems to have a very good handle on its internal policies — namely, that it cannot be used in any fashion to appear to promote a service, product or entertainment offering. There’s nothing in this report that suggests overt efforts to assist in the crafting of pro-military propaganda, but neither is there anything that suggests the USMC will approach less-than-favorable portrayals with an open mind. (For more details on how much control the US military has over the entertainment industry, Spy Culture’s Tom Secker has written a very interesting and detailed post on the subect.)

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Comments on “USMC Entertainment Liaison Not About To Let The Marines' Good Name Be Dragged Down By 'Low-Culture' Reality TV”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Gomer Pyle

It must be slack times again for the USMC. During a previous slack time (perhaps their very last) in August 2001, the Marines had a ceremony to award an honorary rank to Jim Nabors, who played a marine called Gomer Pyle in a 1960s TV show.

Of course, television shows have changed a great deal since then, when vaudville-style straight-man/comic duos were still in fashion (and apparently pervasive, as other shows from the same era like Gilligan’s Island used the exact same Laurel/Hardy-type comedy trope).

But these days it seems that the sight of an authoritarian bully screaming at a subservient dimwit just isn’t as funny as it (apparently) was a few generations ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the point you are trying to ignore is this:
every time you see cops and military in movies, tv, music videos, etc it is 100% brainwashing PROPAGANDA,
otherwise it does NOT get AUTHORIZED…
now think each time you have seen military vehicles borrowed for a batman movie, or the TV series 24… was there a PRO- military message there? hu?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The point I’m trying to make is, the USMC and the Military acts in a way that I imagine MOST organizations act. Think about it like this: I want to make a documentary about corruption in Coca-Cola. I go there and pitch the script that will cast them in an unfavorable light. Obviously, their public relations department denies requests to film in the building and interview people.

Does the Military deny assistance for things which aren’t in line with their message? Sure. Does that mean that everything else is suddenly propaganda? No.

Motorcycle safety is a big issue in the military because personnel die in accidents.

Cutting a vehicle in half is a waste of resources (although I disagree with the assertion that they can be fully repaired) since that vehicle could be used for other stationary training.

Does a movie that portrays fraternization go against Military Values? Yes.

There is a story here, but there is not enough investigative journalism actually going on to bring it to the surface.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…Does the Military deny assistance for things which aren’t in line with their message? Sure. Does that mean that everything else is suddenly propaganda? No…

“The Green Berets” had military support for their production, but the military did insist on some script changes. Anyone who’s been in Special Forces will likely recognize what some of those changes were. And yes this movie was criticized as propaganda.

…Does a movie that portrays fraternization go against Military Values? Yes…

The military withdrew support for “Firebirds” because of this. Most of the principle shoots had already been done so it’s hard to tell in the movie where the support stopped.

Sometimes it’s painfully obvious when a production depicting the US military lacks support from the real US military. “Navy Seals” became more noticeable for said lack of support when it became known that one of the screenwriters actually had been a Seal.

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