How a Hollywood Spy Film Brainwashes Us
By Jonathan Cook
June 07, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" -
Why are so few of us truly fearful of the impending meltdown of
capitalism, stoked by global corporations’ rape and pillage? And why are so many
of us passive in the face of impending environmental catastrophe?
The answers, surprisingly, are to be found in a recent spoof spy blockbuster,
Kingsman – The Secret Service. American Sniper may have enraged leftists for its
overt jingoism and implicit war-cheerleading, but movies like Kingsman, which
exercise their spell largely below the radar of political activism, are far more
important in shoring up a climate of political submissiveness and naivety.
If Joseph Goebbels were alive today, this is the kind of movie he would be
making – lappped up by audiences and winning general critical plaudits. Even
critics who have panned it, as several did in the UK’s elite media, faulted it
for its crudity; none seemed aware of its insidious faux class politics and faux
No suprise either that the film is made by Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox. Kingsman is
the Sun or New York Post on celluloid. Its qualities – stylishness, humour and
action – are there to distract us, to prevent us from noticing that we are being
“brainwashed under freedom”. The drip-drip of films and TV shows like Kingsman
is what keeps us worshipping at the alter of an ideology designed first to
imprison us and then to destroy us.
Those critics who dislike the movie have highlighted its ending, which
encapsulates the vulgar style of this brash piece of entertainment.
Our young working-class hero, Eggsy, groomed by a group of elite spies
masquerading as Savile Row “gentleman” tailors, saves the world from an evil
master-mind, Valentine, played by Samuel L Jackson with a lisp. Valentine too
believes he is saving the planet: from inexorable climate change. He intends to
cull most of the population, especially those from the lower orders.
The film ends with a beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed Swedish princess – imprisoned
by Valentine for refusing to help him – promising Eggsy that, if he kills her
captor, he can have anal sex with her. The film literally ends with a view of
her bare bottom. The “joke”, I guess, if one wants to be lulled into believing
this is meant to be clever, is that in this working-class James Bond film sex
isn’t just alluded to and isn’t prettified, it’s the real, raw deal.
But the reward of taboo sex actually tells us much more about the movie’s
general political message. The whole film is based around outrageous stereotypes
of class: a largely ignorant working class operating on violent Darwninian
principles; and a sophisticated, self-sacrificing and clever aristocracy that
secretly maintains order and security. The middle classes – the politicians,
professors, diplomats – are mainly selfish oafs siding with Valentine to save
their own skins.
The subtext of its ugly class politics, however, are obscured by a working-class
hero myth that serves presumably to enthrall rather than alienate its target
Eggsy is given the chance to break free from his working-class ghetto to join
the honorable gentlemen spies. Only one of the group stands in his way. The
snobbish leader, Arthur, played by Michael Caine as an Old Etonian, hates Eggsy,
supposedly for his vulgarity. In fact, Arthur, we discover, has been concealing
his true character. As Eggsy tricks him into killing himself, Arthur’s Alfie-style
working class accent returns – his ability to hide his background fades as he
Finally freed from the confines of the working class and able to reinvent
himself as a dapper gent, Eggsy saves the world. His reward, in language more
fitting to the film, is to “stick it” to a real princess. This
across-the-class-divide sex revenge fantasy is ugly enough. But its function is
to suggest – like some western version of the supposed Islamic martyr’s reward
of 72 virgins – that those who aspire to join the honorable 1% will find their
own sexual reward even before they ascend to heaven.
If the film’s class politics are bad, its faux environmental message is even
Bad-guy Valentine is an environmentalist of sorts. He describes the state of
climate degradation in fairly accurate and chilling terms, certainly for a
Hollywood movie. Humans have become like a virus feeding off the planet, and, if
they cannot end their self-destructive urges, then either they or the planet
The problem is the film isn’t interested at all in that “if”. There are no
alternatives offered – like restructuring society, or introducing new forms of
sustainable energy. It’s either us or the planet. And Valentine decides to side
with the planet. In true fascist style, he believes he must cull most of the
population, saving those who can finance his dastardly scheme. He will begin
life on Earth again with a much smaller population of humans.
Eggsy saves the world by leaving behind the working class, by reinventing
himself as the part of the go-getting 1% ( a young Murdoch?) and by killing
Valentine and – implicitly – the fanatical ideology of environmentalism that
As Eggsy finishes off Valentine and heads off for his reward with the princess,
the film suggests all is right with the world again. The natural order has been
restored. Climate change fades away as if Valentine’s concerns about mankind’s
future died with him.
The film’s two messages – that the elites are there for the reason that they are
best-placed to manage the world, and that enviromentalists are the real threat
to our safety – are so crudely laid out that it is hard to miss them. And yet
reading the reviews, miss them is precisely what the reviewers and, it seems,
most audiences are doing.
There is a reason for that. What Kingsman shows overtly, the rest of our media
implies more gently and artfully every day. We are now so deep in the cult
crafted by corporate capitalism that it can show us the bars of our prison,
laugh in our face and still know that we will pay to enjoy the ride.
Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the
Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism -