Hollywood's scriptwriters are already at work

The new versions of 'Bravo Two Zero' will also take account that this is a new kind of caring war
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The Independent Online

It would be quite wrong and unfair to suggest that our great entertainment industries have stood idly by as the occupation of Iraq has taken its course. The pages of Variety have been full of heart-rending stories of film premieres being postponed and box-office figures slumping as the round-the-clock war show keeps audiences at home.

It would be quite wrong and unfair to suggest that our great entertainment industries have stood idly by as the occupation of Iraq has taken its course. The pages of Variety have been full of heart-rending stories of film premieres being postponed and box-office figures slumping as the round-the-clock war show keeps audiences at home.

For the first time in living memory, Madonna has censored herself in response to "the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect for the armed forces". The video for her new single "American Life" apparently contained "disturbing images of war" – obviously something that no one would want to see at the moment.

In Britain, the showbiz-obsessed tabloid press has sacrificed page after page that would normally have been devoted to the latest news of soaps and pictures of celebrities in swimming-costumes. Recently, it is true, there have been signs of real, civilian life returning – Angus Deayton wants to present a show on ITV, Sophie Dahl is writing a novel, Amanda Holden is seeing someone new – but, by press standards, great sacrifices have been made.

In going so far to acknowledge that something unusual and unpleasant is occurring in the Middle East, the entertainment business has confirmed that it has a part to play in the world post-Saddam. The next stage, surely, is to settle our jangled nerves by assimilating the war into popular culture, and making it a rather less upsetting and morally ambiguous experience in the process.

Already, the Groucho generals of the publishing industry will have prepared for the first phase of the campaign by setting up a few contracts with entrepreneurial SAS types. The new versions of Bravo Two Zero will contain the usual ingredients – heroism in the desert, tales of enemy torture and lots of dead Arabs – but they will also take account the idea that this is a new kind of caring war. There will be tales of Iraqi kiddies giving game little thumbs-up signs as they are liberated by kindly squaddies, of heroic efforts to bring in aid supplies within hours of the last cluster bomb being dropped.

American publishers are already queuing to sign up Private Jessica Lynch, and soon the hunt will be on for other heroes. Editors looking for stories of general appeal might remember that you can never go far wrong with an animals-in-war story – perhaps Jilly Cooper, having recorded our debt to horses, dogs and pigeons in the two world wars, might be prevailed up to write Dolly, the Dolphin that Freed Umm Qasr.

Meanwhile, it will be important that television viewers are reminded that, apart from the satanic henchmen of the regime who have oppressed them for so long, the Iraqis are terribly nice people who are not dissimilar to us. Here some kind of reality TV offensive might be in order, perhaps following the progress of a plucky child, injured in the war and flown to a British hospital to be given new life and hope.

Later, a series of Living the Dream might point out that, for adventurous Britons abroad, properties on the banks of the Euphrates offer the kind of opportunity that the Dordogne and Tuscany offered a couple of decades ago. For those concerned that some of the accommodation might be in need of serious renovation, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would be on hand with a special Baghdad edition of Changing Rooms to show how what appears to be a pile of rubble can, with a few deft touches, become a stylish design statement.

Would it be too much to hope that a peak-hour Sunday evening slot might be found for a feelgood family drama set in post-war Iraq? Where Heartbeat once dominated the ratings, there would Hearts and Minds, starring Robson Greene as a military doctor, bringing warmth and a touch of glamour to where there was once only despair.

Finally, a mighty Hollywood epic – 24 Hours from Baghdad – will help to erase the mess and misery of the past days from our memories by providing a tidier, less confusing version than the real thing, with clearer motivation and a more satisfactory conclusion. Like the best and most cunning American TV – West Wing or 24 – the film will remind us that those governing America are really good-hearted, liberal-minded types and the CIA is full of brave, honourable heroes best played by Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis or Kiefer Sutherland. There will, of course, have to be a few shots of enemy troops being shot, but the screenplay writers will make sure the story includes some good Iraqis.

One day, with the help of our storytellers and entertainers, we shall be able to see what we have been going through in these weeks just as it should always have been: a wonderful tale of derring-do with America, and its little cousin Britain, playing the role of liberating heroes.

terblacker@aol.com

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