Preparing for War
Preparing for War
This chapter describes Patria (1917), which proved to be the best of the preparedness serials. The Wharton brothers knew that it would take a powerful voice to make Americans feel the urgency of military preparedness, and they found it in Patria Channing. Before undertaking Patria, the brothers, working at an almost unprecedented pace, had produced three serials in two years that featured strong modern heroines. But unlike the adventures of her “serial sisters,” which were intended to entertain rather than to provoke, Patria's story was conceived with a distinctly topical and political aim. Although America had managed to stay out of the conflict that had raged in Europe since 1914, aloofness from affairs abroad was becoming more difficult, and some level of engagement seemed inevitable. American policies of neutrality and attitudes of peaceful idealism began shifting to a more violent war passion; and nowhere was “that transition revealed more patently than in the newly found language of the movies,” with pro-war propaganda “subtly and astutely” being injected even into satires, comedies, dramas, and romances. In particular, serials such as Patria sought to brace the American public for the possibility of entry into the conflict, typically by sensationalizing the threat to American national security.
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