Upon observing the way we venerate popular culture, a wise man once said ”We all feed on tragedy.” We consume movies depicting multiple gruesome, gory murders, obscene sexual acts and so, so much more. People love a wide swarth of genres — yes, the consumerist movie-going Proletariat enjoy simple heartwarming tales of duty right next to their scrambled brains. So they shall have it.
Clint Eastwood’s new military biopic, "American Sniper," about our nation’s deadliest marksman has stirred up criticism, conflict and consternation from every angle imaginable. From liberal firebrand Matt Taibbi’s scathing meta-analysis of the film’s whitewashing of the tragedies in Iraq to Michael Moore’s assertion that snipers are cowards, the Hollywood Left has been speaking out about the supposed pro-war message of the movie. Even Seth Rogen, apparently off a double-secret probation after his international cyber-fiasco from "The Interview," offered a comparison of the movie to the Nazi propaganda film in the third act of "Inglourious Basterds."
Laypeople have also responded — first, by giving Eastwood his largest opening weekend ever, at $90 million. However, their twitterverse response, driven strongly by right-wing and ex-military personnel, seems to have missed the mark that the virulently anti-war Eastwood was shooting for. In his own words, there is no political meaning behind the movie.
No, it’s a movie about the “human side” of war, about the soldiers who actually pull the triggers that kill the people that secure the freedom. At best — sorry, Clint — "American Sniper" is an imperialist, myopic take on that very real facet of war. It’s hard to get to the human core of the story when you ignore half of the people involved (the dying half), and even harder to delve into it when the subject is, on paper, a cold-blooded, murderous bigot.
The voices of many true patriots have been added in a rush to Kyle’s defense, including those who suggest that critics of the military simply leave this county over their disapproval of U.S. military tactics. Good thing the Constitution protects everybody’s free speech, because if these
redcoats redbloods were in charge, questioning in any way the practices and long-standing abuses in our military and the human cost of our actions in every foreign field the world-over may be as permissible as denigrating the Fabulous Leader in North Korea.
The real American Sniper, Chris Kyle, was a decorated killer. His story — a teardrop in the ocean of atrocities and brutalities committed in the Iraqi Theater — should not be used as a rallying cry for pro-war sentiment, or a celebration of his extraordinarily successful career. I don’t know what Chris Kyle was fighting for, and by the end of the film, neither does he.
It’s a challenge to not join those out there who forget that Clint Eastwood is only making a movie, like said above — the fantasy is meant to be more palatable than the reality, and that goes for the degrees of complexity, violence and candor permitted in the film. Acting, cinematography and directing need to take precedent over politics in our entertainment, once and for all.
This isn’t Ford’s Theatre, after all; it’s just Hollywood.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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