Adam L. Silverman
This morning, just before I saw COL Lang's post about American Sniper, I read Matt Taibbi's commentary at Rolling Stone. Taibbi has a very interesting and insightful take into why the movie has been so popular. It relates back to what a lot of people - analysts, commentators, and just informed regular citizens - have identified as a problem in our ongoing experiment in self-government. American Sniper, like the war movies that came out in the years after the Vietnam War, allows Americans off the hook. As a result there is no need for deep politial or ideological self examination. There is also no reason to actually do anything to change the circumstances that allow for poorly conceived and ill advised adventures abroad and the ongoing degradation, at all levels, of self-government at home.
"Sniper is a movie whose politics are so ludicrous and idiotic that under normal circumstances it would be beneath criticism. The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question."In reference to an actual revuew of the movie, Taibii also writes that "Griggs added, in a review that must make Eastwood swell with pride, that the root of the film's success is that "it's about a real person," and "it's a human story, not a political one." Well done, Clint! You made a movie about mass-bloodshed in Iraq that critics pronounced not political! That's as Hollywood as Hollywood gets."
"The thing is, it always looks bad when you criticize a soldier for doing what he's told. It's equally dangerous to be seduced by the pathos and drama of the individual solider's experience, because most wars are about something much larger than that, too.
They did this after Vietnam, when America spent decades watching movies like Deer Hunter and First Blood and Coming Home about vets struggling to reassimilate after the madness of the jungles. So we came to think of the "tragedy" of Vietnam as something primarily experienced by our guys, and not by the millions of Indochinese we killed.
That doesn't mean Vietnam Veterans didn't suffer: they did, often terribly. But making entertainment out of their dilemmas helped Americans turn their eyes from their political choices. The movies used the struggles of soldiers as a kind of human shield protecting us from thinking too much about what we'd done in places like Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos.
This is going to start happening now with the War-on-Terror movies. As CNN's Griggs writes, "We're finally ready for a movie about the Iraq War." Meaning: we're ready to be entertained by stories about how hard it was for our guys. And it might have been. But that's not the whole story and never will be.
We'll make movies about the Chris Kyles of the world and argue about whether they were heroes or not. Some were, some weren't. But in public relations as in war, it'll be the soldiers taking the bullets, not the suits in the Beltway who blithely sent them into lethal missions they were never supposed to understand."
Click on over and read the whole thing! And while you're there, if you haven't already, check out his writing on both the financial crisis and the criminal justice system. Make sure to catch his explanation of how turning the commodity markets into a casino helped to hugely inflate the price of gas. And treat yourself to his book and column reviews of Tom Friedman. WARNING: Do NOT eat or drink anything while reading the reviews of Friedman!