Pop or Propaganda?
I normally don’t see the need to explain how I feel about movies, as I
believe the reviews I write about them are fairly self explanatory. But in the
case of Act of Valor,
a war film which utilized real active duty Navy SEALs, it seems I have no choice
in the matter. That’s because my zero-star review, which was admittedly
venomous, incurred the wrath of a reader who made it perfectly clear that,
despite not always agreeing with the military’s tactics, he was a very patriotic
American citizen who wholeheartedly supported our troops. So as to avoid any
further backlash, I feel it necessary to clarify my position on this film. I
will be quoting from his e-mail, but when it comes to his name, his internet
identity, and his e-mail address, I will refrain from divulging specifics. No
need to fan the flames any more than they already have been.
“I think our government does some stupid things,” he told me, “but our
soldiers are heroes.” On this point, we’re in perfect alignment. It does indeed
take a special type of person to knowingly put him/herself in harm’s way in the
name of his/her country. Without our troops, we would not have tracked down and
assassinated Osama bin Laden, who masterminded both the 1998 U.S. Embassy
bombings and the 9/11 attacks. But immediately after he said this, my detractor
went on the defense, as if I had personally devalued him. “Maybe you should
think about who you’re insulting before you open your mouth next time,” he said.
“This is a movie about Navy Seals and a representation of some of the things
they face in their job. If you think that’s a recruitment video, then I guess
you think ‘Deadliest Catch’ is as well?”
Let’s begin with his perception that I’m insulting our troops – which, to be
perfectly frank, indicates that he didn’t actually read my review from start to
finish. At no point did I ever insult our troops. In fact, I place no blame on
them at all; their involvement in Act of Valor was made mandatory at
the insistence of the Navy, who were actively working towards rebuilding the
military’s reputation following the unpopularity of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan – and following years of brutal and understandably cynical Hollywood
films that refused to glorify war with glaringly xenophobic simplifications. My
attacks were aimed at those who felt it necessary to exploit the SEALs for their
own personal and professional gains, namely directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
and the media departments of the American military. Those who fight for our
country deserve more respect than that.
Moving on, its status as a recruitment video is not based on my personal
opinion, but on documented fact, as reported by John Anderson of the New
York Times (read the full article
here) and by Jordan Zakarin of The Huffington Post (full article
here). As for The Deadliest Catch, I admit to not having watched a
single episode of that show, as I truly have no interest in a reality series
about the lives of fishermen catching Alaskan king crabs in the Bering Sea
(truth be told, I don’t even eat seafood, as I find the taste of it disgusting).
But if my commenter’s thinking is right and it is indeed a recruitment video, I
wouldn’t have a problem with it as long as the fishermen involved themselves of
their own free will. At least then, I’d know that they weren’t pawns in a corporate
scheme to drum up business.
The e-mail concludes with the following statements: “You’re a conspiracy
theorist who writes movie reviews for a living? You are but a fraction of the
overall growing problem in this country, but nonetheless, a contributing factor
to it. You need to move to another country where someone won’t punch you in your
mouth, but here, someone just might...” Let me make this perfectly clear: I’m
not a conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy theorist wouldn’t even bother
to do research for their articles. Rather than react emotionally to the film, I
was merely commenting on the facts as they were presented to me, including in
the articles I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The implication is that,
because I’m questioning the tactics of my government and the filmmakers they
hired for this film, I’m (a) automatically against our troops, and (b) someone
who doesn’t love his country.
Let me pose the following question: If I didn’t love my country, would I care
if our troops were being used by our government as pawns in an effort to recruit
new soldiers? Would I bother to see them first as human beings with families and
careers? It’s precisely because of my patriotism that I responded so badly to
Act of Valor. I love my country enough to not want to see our bravest
people exploited. I believe that anyone has the right to join any branch of the
military if he/she chooses to do so. However, I don’t believe it’s right to lure
them in with a glorified two-hour action extravaganza. That puts it in the
dreaded category of propaganda. The decision to enlist should be a personal one
based on careful research and a clear idea of what your goals in life are. And
on that note, I hope to put this ugliness behind me and move on to other films.
Life is too short to spend all your time shouting at the rain.