This is a little different from what I normally write but I noticed I was having an emotional reaction to people’s opinions regarding the movie American Sniper. One of the best ways to process an emotional response is to express it – so here I am.
I read several blogs and watched a couple of video segments on critiques of the movie. Mostly negative and scathing. I kept wondering – “What movie did you all see?” Then I realized many of the segments started with “I didn’t see the movie and I don’t intend to…” Oh. Random Pet Peeve: Shredding apart a movie you have never seen. Go see it and then shred apart to your heart’s delight.
It dawned on me that of course everyone takes something different from the movie. What we get out of a movie or music or art or a book is really about us and who we are. It isn’t about the movie at all, so in essence we all did watch a different movie.
As an overview, I do not believe we should have been fighting in Iraq. At the same time I respect and honor the military and their families that sacrificed to do as their country asked. I am proud of my brother who served in Iraq and won’t diminish the soldiers sacrifice by indicating that military members are all blood hungry, glory hounds incapable of seeing ambiguity. Before I saw the movie I had no idea Chris Kyle even ever existed. I only went because I had the day off and my Aunt said “I have to go pick up tickets at the movie theater – want to see a movie.” A movie – as in entertainment. A movie that I’m pretty sure wasn’t supposed to be an end all/be all documentary of snipers in the Iraq war. I actually laughed out loud when I saw the quote about Americans going to the movie as a patriotic act. What? The writer might be over-thinking it some. I’m pretty sure people aren’t sitting around thinking “I could donate to a veteran’s clothing drive but hey – going to see American Sniper is the same thing. Boy aren’t I patriotic.”
I will say out loud that I actually liked the movie. I was a bit dismayed to see that Clint Eastwood directed it because in the political belief world I’m pretty sure Mr. Eastwood and I are not only at opposite ends of the Spectrum, I suspect we are on different spectrums entirely. Of course – it doesn’t matter who created the movie – I often say if our beliefs won’t stand up when people question them – how solid are they to begin with.
What did I get out of the movie? War is fucked up. Yep. That is it. War is fucked up. People are placed in fucked up situations. People are expected to do Fucked up things. Sometimes in the situation people will say and do even more Fucked up things. After they are done and go home – people are expected to go on with their lives and their families as if none of the Fuckedupness happened. That is what I got out of the movie.
One complaint I have read several times is that the movie is too black and white. (Ironically actually, since many of the critiques of the movies were very black and white!) Complaints of the movie said it depicted that all Iraqis were evil and the Americans all good. Definitely a bit of that. One thing the movie did do was show how the one Iraqi had been an Olympic athlete, hinting that hey – these are just people too. Again – it is a movie. No movie no matter how excellent can cover each and every nuance of a situation.
I suspect that the troops in country would necessarily have to have some type of black and white belief. Don’t tell me that people who choose the military are sociopaths. There are likely sociopaths at your work, in your neighborhood and even in the military. However, all the military people I have met are people who love their families, their lives and their countries. How would someone who has a conscience and empathy justify killing people if there wasn’t some distancing and some extreme good vs. evil thinking? Could you do it?
It reminded me that as a society we often forget why soldiers struggle so much when they come home. Trauma and PTSD are real and prevalent and it seems like one of our society’s tenets is that “bygones should be bygones” It is over and done with so people can get over it already and move on. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. Often, members in the military do not seek assistance because it seems weak and there is such stigma for a soldier to see help. A movie like this can remind people that the experiences for military individuals doesn’t end when they come home. It many times never ends. The movie showed the main character even talk to what I presume is a therapist at the VA. How awesome is it to give permission to a soldier that talking to a therapist might actually be helpful (gasp!) It would be so easy or neat in real life but the thought was there.
The movie spotlighted the struggles families have. Not just the soldier dedicates their life and time to the military – their family is connected too and often not by their choice. The movie showed how even when the military member returns home – life doesn’t just go back to what the family considers normal.
As much as I – with my peace sign tattoo and all – want a world where human rights are protected and we see everyone as part of one human world and there is no war – we aren’t there yet. I will continue to work and advocate for better lives for people but as many of the critiques said – Life is not black and white. American Sniper as well was not all good or bad. Life is ambiguous and full of both pain and joy. Keep writing and speaking about the things that are important to you and as I will also try – work on being OK with ambiguity and that there can be value in ideas and beliefs that may not be congruent with your own.