The big news in America this week is the Iraq War. But not the real Iraq War we fought many years ago in our effort to root out the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. This time we are caught up in a fictionalized, Hollywood version of the war, thanks to the movie, “American Sniper.”
Americans have flocked to the theaters in incredibly large numbers to see this movie. In only its second weekend, the movie brought in enough to hit $200 million total in revenue, making it already the second highest grossing war movie of all time. Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” was previously second, and “Saving Private Ryan,” Steven Spielberg’s 1998 hit, is still at the top, having earned $300 million. But all expectations are that “American Sniper” will easily surpass that film.
We Americans may not love war, some of us, but we sure love our war heroes. Even flawed ones - well, maybe even especially when they are flawed. “American Sniper” is essentially the story of the most prolific sniper in American history, Chris Kyle. The fact that this movie centers on the story of a man who some think glorified killing in the way he talked about his job. In one interview with The Sunday Times of London three years ago, Kyle said his only regret about what he did was that he did not kill more people.
The movie does show the harsh realities of the war and the toll it took on the families. But there is no denying it also does what Hollywood is good at: simplifying war into good versus evil, with of course the U.S. being good, and those on the other end, being bad. Michael Moore, the filmmaker, of course added fuel to the fire regarding this film, by starting a rant on Twitter, tweeting:
"My uncle [was] killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot you in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders are worse."
That set others hurrying to express their opinions as well. On Friday night, Gov. Howard Dean was a guest on “The Real Time With Bill Maher” and ripped the movie for its moral ambiguity. Dean said he believed most people who went to see this movie are very angry people. He equated fans of the movie to Tea Party supporters. Actor Gary Sinese tweeted and wrote:
“You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told.”
Like I said, Americans don’t want to get reality all mixed up in our fantasy recreations of the real world. Nothing will piss us off sooner. The fact that this movie tries to walk a line between making the point that war is bad, while at the same time glorifying a sniper who killed from rooftops, is just too complicated. Which is why people get upset when Moore and Dean dare to bring up inconvenient things like facts or dissenting opinions. Americans just want our stories simple: good versus evil. All that other stuff interferes with our popcorn-eating while we watch all the killing and suffering.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros