Wednesday, January 28, 2015

As A Democrat, I Have No Problem With The Movie "American Sniper"

Unlike "Dodgeball" character White Goodman, who "read a book".....I haven't read the book "American Sniper" so I express no opinion as to that book or what it says.  I also express no opinion on Chris Kyle the actual person who lived and died.  He is accused of being a horrible liar and of defaming Jesse Ventura (which hardly seems possible).  But I have never met the guy, so I really have no basis to decide his overall qualities as a person.

I have, however, seen the movie "American Sniper."  It is a good solid movie, and the last 10 minutes are extremely powerful, as is the incredible experience of walking out of an almost entirely silent theatre (my show had about 700 people attending; you could hear a pin drop).

Overall -- 8 of 10.  I might have said higher, but there are some pretty garden variety military scenes and for the first 25 minutes of the movie Bradley Cooper's Texas accent is so low and mumbled that I found myself watching almost like someone watching a foreign language film - trying to understand what was going on by the context.  Is this desire to copy accents really necessary?  I mean, Jeff Bridges in the "True Grit" remake did the same thing.  I get it, that is what the person really sounds like.  So what?  Could you not make some effort at making the movie version audible/recognizable?

I am a Democrat.  When I was 8 years old, I had a Watergate coloring book.  I used to color my book while watching what I could of Congressional hearings about the Watergate break-in and cover up.  I voted for Mondale and every Democratic nominee since.  But I am not a liberal Democrat.  After the furor over "American Sniper" the movie, I am glad.  It seems that liberal Dems despise "American Sniper" because it is a movie that states that a solider who was sent into the Iraq War is an American hero whom others adore.  That is true.  Watch the footage at the end of the movie -- people lined the roads for his funeral procession; the Cowboys' stadium was full of people honoring him; his fellow soldiers decorated his casket with their military pins.  People loved the guy and regarded him as a legend/hero.

The knee-jerk reaction of the liberal Dems is to state that Kyle could not be a hero because he fought in George W. Bush's unjust war and killed Iraqis who should never have been in harm's way.  But, again, he was a hero to many, many people.  If 10 years from now a movie is made in which LeBron James is depicted as a hero during his days in Miami, will people rise up and state "He is no hero!  He left Cleveland!  He left Miami!  He is just a basketball player - why do we worship basketball players!?!?" I am sure that they will.  But that sort of position just ignores the facts - people have heroes whom they worship because the hero does do certain things or has certain character traits that they admire.  YOU may not like it, but why pretend that the hero worship does not exist?  Why immediately jump to the conclusion that,  because you do not consider the person a hero, no one may properly consider the person a hero? 

Wouldn't it be far more interesting to simply watch the film then go home and consider why it is that a segment of society considers the character depicted in the film to be a hero?  What qualities is he believed to have that the people admire?  Why does our society honor and/or reward those qualities or what he did with his life?

But that is a thinking person's response.  It is far easier to just stand up and scream, "No!  I do not accept that!"  This is the Democratic equivalent to the constant abuse of Barack Obama by the Right Wing.  Could Barack Hussein Obama ever do anything right or advocate for a correct position?   No.  Could anyone consider him a good President or a role model?  NEVER!!!  He is black.  He is Kenyan.  He is a Muslim.  He wore a tan suit once, etc.  The anti-"American Sniper" position is loaded with all of the same sort of talking points, "BUT, the guy was a liar.  But, we shouldn't have been at war in the first place.  But, how dangerous is it REALLY to be a sniper?  He KILLED people!"

I understood the bad feelings about "Zero Dark Thirty," because, while it was a good movie, it was clearly depicting torture as the proper thing to do and, basically, making all of the good characters  pro-torture with no qualms whatsoever about what they were doing.  (All characters who suggested not torturing were depicted as the enemy who make it impossible to get crucial information to save lives).  The key premise of that movie -- that torture got us key information -- is almost certainly false.  I can see people objecting to the elements that suggest a top-level government propaganda piece justifying torture, 

But "American Sniper" is not a government propaganda piece.  We are not asked to accept that the Iraq War was justified.  We see no top government officials.  We only see Chris Kyle getting Seal training and sniper training and then going to Iraq.  He is there.  He does what he does.  He has to make tough decisions that, if he is wrong, will send him to prison.  While Kyle is the main character, all of the other characters that we see are not necessarily as gung ho and pro-war as Kyle.  One character states that there is a lot of evil in the world and that, basically, there is enough blame to go around.  He writes a letter to his mother stating that he thinks that people are overwhelmed by the glory of war.  His mother gets up and reads the letter at his funeral.  He is depicted very sympathetically.  Kyle's own brother seems to despise the war and serving in the war, he says directly to Chris Kyle, "Fuck this place."  Again, he is a "good guy" character.  He is portrayed sympathetically.  Kyle's own wife hates what the war is doing to Chris Kyle and constantly complains that Kyle is never involved in the family, caring only about the war.  Again, she is not seens as whiny or needy.  In fact, you can take from the movie that she is the voice of reason in the entire film.  She just wants a normal family life.  She doesn't care about the cause.  She just wants her husband to return to normal.

When these people challenge Chris Kyle's view of the world, he responds in very dogmatic terms.  The fellow soldier doesn't know what he is talking about.  His letter home is what got him killed because he lost faith in the cause. (When Kyle says this to his wife, his wife is utterly shocked at what he is saying -- Kyle fully believes in his position that the letter home got his former friend killed, but it is a ridiculous position, and it is not portrayed as reasonable or believable).  Even Kyle's own brother, when stating how much he hates Iraq, gets a reaction from Chris Kyle that shows no love, pity or empathy for his own brother, because his brother is being soft (or at least softer than Chris Kyle).  Again, unlike "Zero Dark Thirty," where the stars of the movie were all seen as doing God's work,  Chris Kyle is obviously a guy with a very narrow world view, and it isn't necessarily correct.  He goes out and kicks ass and shoots people.  He believes everything he is doing is 100% correct.  He believes that the Iraqis are bad people who will be terrorizing San Diego or New York if he doesn't kill them all.  But this is a guy who we really are not supposed to take as the authority on anything.  Does writing a letter to your mom that is anti-war cause you to get shot and killed in an ambush?  Come on.  Should Kyle care about his wife and kids?  Certainly, but he does not.  Should Kyle care about his brother's obviously shaky mental state?   Of course.   But he doesn't.  He may be the hero, but he is a very flawed hero.

So, while people justifiably have a problem with the Bush Administration, the movie "American Sniper" shows one guy doing his job as a soldier, holding some very definite beliefs, and basically saying "fuck you" to anyone who disagrees with those views.  For that, many people, particularly in the military and in Texas, love him.  Should that come as a great surprise?  Are you as a movie watcher required to love him?  No.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that you are invited to love him or not love him (he is mean to his wife, ignores his kids, says ridiculous things, is uncaring to his brother, has what I would consider to be a God complex, and he almost tries to kill an innocent dog for God's sake).   You can also take him as a complete person and (as with anyone else) accept that he has both admirable traits and very negative traits.

The fact that millions of people attend "American Sniper" and come out feeling great about the Republican Party really is not something you can fight against.  Both "Born in the U.S.A." and "Pink Houses" were regarded as great Republican political patriotic anthems, and that was never the songwriters' intent.  It makes no sense to fight so hard to deny people who want to love the "American Sniper" movie their right to love the movie because it makes them feel good about being a Republican.  Let them love it.  The whole idea that "You cannot love the movie because I do not" is, quite frankly, a position I would expect to hear on Fox News and not from people who purport to be supporters of the First Amendment, free speech, and the freedom of expression.  When did we become so predictable politically that whatever YOU like the I must hate?

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