At a time when the United States is maintaining two objectionable occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, American TV viewers are watching shows that place Americans in situations not unlike those of occupied Iraqis and Afghans.
The US is occupying two countries with a combined population of 60 million people and battling multiple resistance movements in each. Additionally, no less than six different countries (Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) are being sprinkled, or showered, with US bombs and cruise missiles.
Despite that, there are not many works of cinema or television being made that would have Americans or American-like people invade and occupy places, terrorize them from the air or burst into homes at night to drag away fathers and sons. Presumably proof enough that Americans would not find shows like that enjoyable.
The kind of shows American TV viewing public does like have Americans or American-like people standing up against outside aggressors wrecking their lives and homes to wage desperate, but determined and righteous battles of survival and freedom.
The premise of the series Falling Skies, early in its run on TV in America is that there has been a successful alien invasion of Earth. The viewer has the opportunity to follow partisans of the '2nd Massachusetts Regiment' as they try to survive, protect civilians in their midst and fight the alien occupation.
The apocalyptic event in the series The Walking Dead, whose first season has just ended, is a deadly virus that kills millions of people only to bring them back as zombies. The world finds itself overrun by zombies rather than by aliens, but the story works in much the same way. It follows a small group of survivors, a mix of combatants and non-combatants, desperately trying to survive against the zombie tide and looking for a hope of a normal life.
Television series V, whose two season long run recently ended, portrays aliens who come to Earth and purport to be benevolent, but are actually working to subjugate the human kind. The main protagonist of the series finds herself participating in, and eventually leading a resistance movement that springs up against them. Branded terrorists, they carry out attacks against the newcomers to try to thwart their plans in what seems to be a loosing battle.
Slightly older shows in the same mold are the cult classic Jericho (2006-2008) and the enormously successful Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). In Jericho the USA is paralyzed by an apparent terrorist attack with nuclear weapons. A small town in rural America must overcome a breakdown of production, trade and communication. Utilities are knocked out and medical facilities no longer operate. The town must defy violent 'Ravenwood' mercenaries – a stand in for Blackwater, accommodate refugees, and withstand an attack by a down on its luck neighboring town.
Battlestar Galactica has the human kind decimated in a surprise attack by artificial life forms. Only those aboard space ships when the attack occurs survive. Military and civilian vessels alike gather in a small fleet and try to flee to safety. On the way they must evade and fight off the far more powerful aggressor seemingly bent on their extinction.
The movie Battle: Los Angeles (2011) has the US military fight a desperate battle to evacuate civilians and defend the city of Los Angeles from a shock & awe style invasion by aliens. Terminator Salvation (2009) portrays a resistance movement fighting against an artificial intelligence and its killer machines on behalf of a decimated human kind. Lastly, a remake of Red Dawn itself is scheduled to hit cinemas later this year. This time around the Wolverines are to battle a North Korean occupation.
One thing such works easily deliver is moral clarity. In Battle: Los Angeles before heading into battle a Marine unit the movie follows is given a pep talk by its lieutenant:
"Here is the situation, marines. We are facing an unknown enemy. We don't know how strong their forces, or what they are capable of – but one thing we do know is that we are fighting for our land, our families, our home, our country god dammit!"It is not a speech that could be credibly delivered by a US lieutenant in a movie set in Afghanistan. The United States is pursing a number of wars that Americans do not know why they are being fought for, but in the TV alternative that has them fighting alien invasions, killer robots, even zombies what Americans are fighting for could not be clearer.
This clarity is the outcome of the fact that for Americans on TV shows the land where the fighting is taking place, is also the place where they live. In the real world however the United States, like the antagonists of such shows, fights exotic peoples in their own, faraway countries. For places on the receiving end of US invasions, blockades and bombing campaigns the United States military is the alien menace of American TV shows.