Dreamworks is fixing to release Welcome To Marwen this upcoming November in theaters. It’s a mixture of live-action actors starring Steve Carrell, and CGI toys based on an alternate reality cooked up by Carrell’s character. It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis, and based on an “inspirational true story”. It’s also complete and utter propaganda hogwash.
The movie is based on the real life hate crime committed against a German-American veteran named Mark Hogancamp. Back in 2000 he was brutally beaten to the point of near death by five young men in their teens and twenties – also German-Americans. Hogancamp was left hanging on to the thinnest thread of life, spending nine days in a coma after suffering massive brain damage from having his head stomped in by his assailants.
The attack left Hogancamp permanently damaged and physically unfit to do simple things like write or keep his hands steady. Hogancamp found a quantum of refuge in the solace of building a real-life fantasy world using dolls and scraps, building a town out of seemingly nothing and giving the dolls dramatic lives that he would then photograph with the candor and skill of a professional auteur.
Hogancamp’s ability to turn tragedy into something triumphant was something Dreamworks found ripe for the pickings of Hollywood. And the trailer has already garnered a lot of positive feedback for its creative approach to depicting Hogancamp’s real-life victimization and his fantasy world in both thrilling and entertaining fashion.
The trailer’s positive reception and the story arc of Hogancamp using the fictional Belgian town of Marwencol (shortened to Marwen in the movie) to deal with his brutal beating all looks great in the trailer, except there’s one major problem: there were no Nazis.
Hogancamp’s beating wasn’t delivered at the hands of a bunch of Nazis beating up a Jewish war veteran because Germans hate Jews, it had everything to do with Hogancamp being a drunken cross-dresser.
Yes, the feel-good story that Dreamworks is peddling is about as far from reality as the plastic dolls dolling out feel-good justice in the fictional town of Marwencol.
The actual story is still fascinating, but far less morally monochromatic. In a lengthy featurette by The Guardian published back on October 28th, 2015, they recount what actually happened to Hogancamp, and it wasn’t some evil, race-hating Nazis who did the dastardly deed of beating him near death. The men were actually quite friendly with Hogancamp before they put boots to his skull.
So what happened?
The reality is that Hogancamp – after serving his time in the Navy – became a drunkard. His wife left him and he would consume up to two liters of alcohol a day. During one visit to a bar, the New York native began drinking with five other German-American fellows, for whom they bonded over Nazi jokes. The men got on well with Hogancamp until he blurted out the one thing that crossed the line for the young men: he liked to cross-dress in women nylons and heels.
The young men hated this fact; waited for him outside the bar and then beat him into a pulp when Hogancamp stepped outside.
They didn’t hate Jews, they hated cross-dresses.
I suppose it’s a harder tale to tell for the purposes of pushing a specific agenda when you have the hero’s comeuppance rendered from a socially divisive issue. Obviously, Dreamworks wasn’t going to paint the hero of Marwen as a cross-dresser, and it’s hard to build hatred for the “villains” if their reasons for beating Hogancamp came from a place where they felt as if he obviously wasn’t man enough for their tastes.
Instead, Zemeckis decided to dive back into the pool of current day sociopolitical divisiveness: the evil Nazis.
It gives Dreamworks more parallels in which to feed the propaganda of Nazis being a bane on current day America, while also furthering the purview of Jewish victimization.
Few people who actually followed Hogancamp’s story called out Dreamworks for trying to further the propaganda being pushed by most of American and British media these days.
The real bold take for a film like Welcome to Marwen would have been actually basing it on the real reasons Hogancamp was beaten into a pulp by those young guys. However, Zemeckis and Dreamworks decided that it makes a lot more sense to cull the controversial layers of real life including Hogancamp’s cross-dressing fetish and to swap the race of the lead from a Caucasian-German to a Jewish-American in order to feed into their own sociopolitical agenda.
Funnily enough, the one thing that they did keep true to form is Hogancamp’s obsession with powerful women protecting him. Hogancamp felt women were the only ones who never wronged him in life, and thus he depicted them as the heroines of his fictional town, Marwencol.
The feminist angle of the real life story was kept firmly intact within the film, showing that Zemeckis and Dreamworks obviously decided to cherry pick what to retain for their own take on Hogancamp’s story.
Of course, this should come as no surprise to most people used to Hollywood’s propaganda machine.