The problem with the warrior ethos is that it requires submission to a “lord” –…
Perhaps, that’s true. In the case of 300, the soldiers submit to the state. But, for me, I admire the courage and willingness to put something ahead of their own lives—even when they know that their lives will almost certainly be lost.
Jazz, there are two separate issues here. One political and one artistic. This first question is “is military recruitment a valid contribution to society.” Leaving aside any issues we might have with the military policies of one country or another, it seems to me that its essential for any nation to have a portion of the population willing to serve.
I agree that countries, in order to survive, need a military—i.e., the citizens have to be willing to join the military. So military recruitment is important and a valid endeavor by the state. However, let me say several things:
1. I bristle at the way art/entertainment merge with something like military recruitment. Can one make art for the primary purpose of military recruitment? I guess so, but this gets away from what art is all about. By this, I’m not just objecting to military recruitment specifically, but the distance from personal expression or entertaining and enlightening audiences. The latter is a critical, if not essential, part of art, imo. The further away a film moves from this objective, the less of an art work it becomes, imo.
2. I have a bigger problem with the surreptitious and misleading nature of these films. I do believe that some viewers—especially the adolescent and twenty-somethings—know they’re being recruited. Also, consider if elementary aged children watch these films. These films will create a positive and attractive image of the military (which is one of the reasons I won’t take my children to see the blue angels), without being aware that this is happening, let alone critically examining what they’re watching.
In addition, let’s face it: these films are deceptive; they’re false advertising. The paint a glamorous, macho image of being in the military. At the very least, this should be troubling. At the same time, a part of me understands that a more realistic depiction of being in the military is antithetical to the objectives of military recruitment. Still, that doesn’t make this less problematic or troubling to me.
Outside of WWII movies which have just played on nostalgia, pretty much the vast majority of war movies since for the last 40 or 50 years have been “war as hell”. That is deeply entrenched into the American psyche. It will take decades of films and media presence for war to be viewed as “fun” again.
Actually, I think you’re overstating the situation from the other direction. In the 80s, you had Rambo and many of the knock-off rambo films. You had Top Gun. In the 90s and 2000s, you had action films that made glamorized the military and military operations. I mentioned Black Hawk Down. (I admit, Eric Bana was really cool in that.) I also think the Transformers films would qualify—indeed, the recruitment seemed a little blatant in that film. It felt like a military recruitment commercials grafted on to the films.
Also, let’s not forget video games.
But there are many anti-war films as well. Whether the effects of these films have outweighed the effects of these actions films, that’s up for debate.
The influence these filmmakers are aiming for is far less harmful than sexist or overly morale world views that filmmakers try to push.
I don’t know. I don’t think it’s less harmful for the people who sign up for the military. Now, if an individual joins the military fully aware of what they’re getting into—not to mention if some of those reasons are noble (e.g., a genuine desire to serve their country)—I have no problem with that. But wouldn’t it bother you if you knew someone who joined the military based on the impressions created by these films? That’s troubling to me.
Maybe “realistic” was the wrong word. What I meant is that the film seems like a fantasy, like a “film”. It’s very much in the same line as Inglourious Basterds. Is this a film that would be used to recruit?
I haven’t seen The Raid, so I can’t comment about the film. Or were you talking about IG as a recruitment tool? IG didn’t really make the military or war so glamorous and appealing to me, but that’s based on what I recall.
As for an action film being more like a fantasy, you don’t think such a film can work as an effective recruitment tool? I think it can, but it depends on the specific film.
Thanks for the link. I’ll try to watch it later.
Jazz – I agree with most of your concerns with these types of films and agree with your disagreement over Malik’s position that the current American psyche about war is “war is hell” (if it were, I think you would’ve seen a lot more disagreement over going into Iraq).
You haven’t seen The Raid but I’m sure you’ve seen Kill Bill. Both of these films are Asian action films that are over the top cartoons that in my mind, have very little in common in terms of “recruitment” that a film like Transformers has.
Oh, OK. If the Raid is similar to Kill Bill, then I see your point. FWIW, I do think the glamorization and glorification of violence in America does have an indirect link to the military recruitment, though.
Well most modern Hollywood films glorify violence, not just war films. Actually more war films are critical of violence than normal action films. I think that if there’s any affect on people through film that causes them to join the war, it will come through any film with badass heroes holding guns, not just the ones that take place in a war setting.
@MIASMAThe problem with the warrior ethos is that it requires submission to a “lord” – that’s ultimately why samurai aren’t quite as cool as we’d like to believe, and why a sloppy, filthy old wandering ronin like Yojimbo is so likable. A soldier will never be respected like loner (mercenary?).
That “lord” doesn’t have to be a person. Somebody living in the modern world could use the same philosophy but replace the feudal lord with his moral values that he’s willing to die for.
A wandering ronin doesn’t have purpose in life, he simply travels from town to town and tries to make as much money as possible and he has no moral code which makes him ethically inferior to the samurai.
@MALIKEh, I think you guys are overstating the problems this will cause or as indoctrination. Outside of WWII movies which have just played on nostalgia, pretty much the vast majority of war movies since for the last 40 or 50 years have been “war as hell”. That is deeply entrenched into the American psyche. It will take decades of films and media presence for war to be viewed as “fun” again.
Hmmm where have you been these last 25 years? In the mid 80’s the pentagon understood the power of images and the influence of films and they started funding films that portray american soldiers as heroes and war as fun, starting with Top Gun. since then, the “war as fun” films outnumbered the “war as hell” ones and definitely outdid them at the box office.
It’s not quite the same thing – and the type of person you just described is the loner who is more highly respected than the soldier.
Also let’s not generalize about the habits of wandering ronin. 95% of our knowledge on the subject comes from films or anime, not erudition or experience.
Like I said, the loner by definition doesn’t have to obey a moral code. What I described is a person who has core values they’re willing to die for which is, in my opinion, more worthy of respect than a self-serving wanderer.
My knowledge on the subject comes from books and historical accounts.
Well odds are you know more than I about ronin, so I’ll concede. I have no interest in pursuing the other argument.
"The problem with the warrior ethos is that it requires submission to a “lord” –…
Ah, the warrior ethos. Well, that ‘problem’ you referred to also stands for honor, courage, dedication and discipline- the same spirit instilled in the character of every fighting men, way before Socrates fought at the Battle of Potidaea, long after and beyond Ho Chi Min’s victory over the French.
I was shocked when I sat down to watch the film Happy Feet with my nieces as it was playing on television on Christmas day. I have to say, I’m not sure what place environmentalist propaganda, anti-religious undertones and homo-erotic subtext have in a movie marketed towards children.
The Atlantic website has an interesting post about the film. The writer criticizes the Stolen Valor Act, which is a law that seeks to punish individuals who lie about being a war hero, and raises the issue of fictionalized accounts about military heroism, bringing up the film, Acts of Valor.
Here’s another blog post about the film at the site as well.
^ I think the Stolen Valor Act has been in the news recently because the Supreme Court recently heard a case about it (and whether the idea of lying about anything is a crime). I heard something about this on NPR earlier this week.
Yeah, I believe the SCOTUS is hearing the case now or soon.
@JAZZ- Thanks for the link.
FACT: There are more fake SEALs/ Delta Force/ Green Berets than the actual numbers of real ones. Add to that the many fake Vets who simply played the system and received undeserved health and financial benefits… at the expense of needy vets, and tax payers like you and I.
Lying about military service seems harmless. To boost a man’s ego, to make himself look better to others wouldn’t hurt anybody, as many believe. This becomes a problem when it’s used for fraudulent purposes, like getting employment, receiving bank loans, job promotion or worse, receiving health care from the already struggling Veterans Administration system. It’s not really a ‘victimless crime’ if there are others who end up getting the short stick. Recently, the problem was highlighted when a politician (a Repuglican, big fucking surprise!) lied about his service, and still won the election.
The Stolen Valor Act had been proposed several times in the past. I’m not sure how it would play out this time, since the law regarding free speech has always been a factor in deciding whether this kind of law is just. It is a serious issue, but the writer’s use of film entertainment as comparison doesn’t really hold water, IMO. Film=Fiction=Fantasy=Entertainment=Art.
This film is out.
I may go tomorrow if I don’t see the Oscar shorts instead.
Anyone that has seen the film, would love to hear from you.
the film is killing at the box office
someone on here must’ve seen it.
There are more fake SEALs/ Delta Force/ Green Berets than the actual numbers of real ones. Add to that the many fake Vets who simply played the system…
I’m curious to know what kind of numbers we’re talking about here, and where you’re getting these numbers from.
…but the writer’s use of film entertainment as comparison doesn’t really hold water, IMO.
I sort of agree, although a film like AoV is problematic, or at least makes me uneasy. If, for all intents and purposes, the film is essentially a military recruitment commercial, then I’m fairly certain it would be manipulative and misleading. The word “lying” may not be completely appropriate, but it’s in the same ballpark, imo, and, to me, it’s just as disturbing as people lying about being war heroes/veterans—if not more so.
Haven’t seen it.
One of my best friends is in the Marine Reserves, and got back home from a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in October. Here’s a conversation we had about Act of Valor
Chris: I’m going to see that film coming out, cast with real Navy Seals -
Joe: Act of Valor?
Chris: Yeah. Boner food right there.
Chris: And I’m going to take [my fellow Marine roommates], we’re going to show up drunk, in full uniform, yelling at the screen, and if anyone gives us lip, we’ll say, “Draft-dodger!”
Joe: But there is no draft.
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Yeah, this film looks poorly acted and shot -as most propaganda is. What would be more interesting would be a film directed, written, or produced by a veteran of the Afghanistan and/or Iraq wars, that doesn’t glamorize the war with nationalistic overtones, but still respects the men and women who fought it – something that shows the veteran-auteur’s war stories on the screen. For Afghanistan, you’d have infantry units protecting convoys for 24+ hours without a break, along roads with bombed-out oil tankers on the side and everyone hoping that they don’t die today; the burning of poppy fields and how, when the marijuana the Afghans plant between the poppy plants sparks up, everyone in the area gets a contact high; the boredom and stupidity that occurs in camp, when you can take a pic of yourself in an adult diaper wielding an M16 and post it to Facebook, as a little slice of the crazy for your friends back home; and the death, whether of a fellow Marine, someone else in the coalition forces, someone you shot, or as what happened to Chris, a random baby they found in the back of a truck. It would say, “War is hell, but for a certain fucked up type of person, it is fun.”
Also, to anyone who has seen it, how much of a religious overtone or undertone is there? I was pro-war in Afghanistan before we killed bin Laden, and now don’t really see any reason to stay, but have always thought that anyone who wanted a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations” is at best stupid and at worst violently insane.
(“There are more fake SEALs/ Delta Force/ Green Berets than the actual numbers of real ones. Add to that the many fake Vets who simply played the system…”)
“I’m curious to know what kind of numbers we’re talking about here, and where you’re getting these numbers from.”
Let me rephrase it- There are more fakers CLAIMING to be SEALs/ Delta Force/ Green Berets than the actual numbers of real ones. Add to that the many fake Vets who simply played the system…")
I don’t have exact itemized numbers, I simply meant to say that the special operations community is very small, but this is an ongoing issue with huge number of cases exposed esp. after 9/11, and a common topic in our community. To give you an idea, you can simply google “fake vets” or check POWnetwork.org or VeriSEAL.org- they are very active at investigating and exposing fake vets, regularly updated in their site INN (Imposter News Network). Most cases aren’t just typical lying or bar room bragadoccio, but fraudulent, ethical violations.
The media is also guilty of frequently using quotes from ‘former this and thats’ to support their quick headlines, without proper verifications.
@JUDICIAL JOE- “Also, to anyone who has seen it, how much of a religious overtone or undertone is there? I was pro-war in Afghanistan before we killed bin Laden,…”
“Yeah, this film looks poorly acted and shot -as most propaganda is…”
You were pro-war before Bin Laden got killed, what? That’s an absurd statement.
Also, isn’t it typical to judge films like these before you even saw it?
I was for the war as long as there was a point to it, i.e., hunting down and preferably capturing bin Laden, although he would doubtlessly put up a fight. Now I think we need to split, as al-Qaeda’s pretty much destroyed. The death of bin Laden is a good catalyst to bring the troops home, staying there indefinitely will just lead to a Vietnam style stalemate that will waste resources, money and lives.
This movie was number 1 at the box office this weekend?
haha – gotta love Americans.
Watch out, Iran! We’re thirsty for blood!
I don’t know why you’re even surprised- this is the U.S. of A, a country whose citizenry camp out, stand in the queue for days, and fight elbow to elbow just to get their hands on the latest Apple i-gadget from fucking China, or the hottest video game release. Speaking of which I’m sure many people who flocked to see this movie are male, gamers or shoot-em-up enthusiasts, majority of which are in awe of the warrior lore, but wouldn’t bother to consider signing up and serving… like ’em Chickenhawks.
Speaking of which I’m sure many people who flocked to see this movie are male, gamers or shoot-em-up enthusiasts, majority of which are in awe of the warrior lore, but wouldn’t bother to consider signing up and serving… like ’em Chickenhawks.
What about young elementary-aged or teenaged males? You don’t think some of them might watch this and become gung-ho to join the military when they grow up?
I was surprised it came in at number 1 at the box office because it’s got terrible reviews, no stars, and is rated R. Those are three things that usually keep a film from making big numbers at the box office, even in February. I mean, I know the competition was slim this weekend but even making over $20 million seems impressive. I don’t know one person who wants to see this film (although I’m in Los Angeles and it does seem geared to people “in the middle of the country”). lol
Young people are normally gung-ho about many things- sports, music, fashion trends, zombies… war culture is mainly embedded in their psyche because of the popularity of videogames, more than the nightly news footage of the current war(s). The number of people who serve in the armed forces is still less than 1% (yeah, we’re the other 1 percent) of the U.S. population. Whatever gung-ho inspiration they acquired from watching Hollywood war films fizzle out the very moment they set their foot in boot camp.
if I have a kid, I would worry more about them getting influenced by drugs and alcohol culture from Hollywod movies, than them rushing to sign up for military service.
@SANTINO- don’t know one person who wants to see this film (although I’m in Los Angeles and it does seem geared to people “in the middle of the country”). lo"
Bro, I live in San Francisco and there were sold out shows. I tell you it’s a movie men would like to see in general, probably take their gals and regale them with their (XBOX) martial exploits.
I haven’t seen it yet, though I’ve been on the set and saw the unedited rushes last year.
“Bro, I live in San Francisco and there were sold out shows.”
Wow. That’s surprising to me. Remember, wasn’t it Berkeley that kicked out recruitment officers during the lead up to the Iraq war? I mean, I know that liberals can be just as dumb and tasteless as conservatives but I would just think that a movie that was pure propaganda (if that’s indeed what this film is) would be shunned by most people in the bay area. I would assume that my hometown of Santa Cruz, which had more Kucinich bumper stickers than Gore and Bush bumper stickers combined in 2000, would have little time for a movie like this. I understand the video game mentality and thinking shit blowing up is “cool”. But this film seems like something more than that, doesn’t it?
For me, war films in general don’t interest me that much only because we’ve seen it all before. This past weekend I saw the Oscar nominated doc, “Hell and Back Again” and the movie was a bore. It really brought nothing new to the table and was instead a glorified 60 Minutes segment. I know that this Actor of Valor movie is not a doc but instead is aimed at entertainment but even then, unless you bring something new to the table, why bother (but of course that’s a discussion for all movies, not just films about war)?
^^@SANTINO- "I mean, I know that liberals can be just as dumb and tasteless as conservatives but I would just think that a movie that was pure propaganda (if that’s indeed what this film is) would be shunned by most people in the bay area. "
I live in the Bay Area for 21 years and I can say we are probably the most tolerant region in the U.S. People can walk around downtown buck naked and the cops won’t bat an eye. Liberal politics dominate headlines, but there are still numerous conservative circles ‘round here. We just happen to know how to get along with each other well enough, almost like on auto-pilot, which is a great thing.
That’s why I believe the popularity of this film is due to the silent majority demographics- men, which is at work here regardless of political beliefs. Men see this as an authentic action movie, nothing more.
I also think a double standard is applied to this type of films. Oftentimes we complain about films with unrealistic plots, phony dialogues and Matt Damon as an action hero. Here comes this movie, with real-life commandos doing real stunts, firing live bullets, talking the way they normally talk, and reenacting missions that are truly based in real events… one would think that could be considered groundbreaking. Instead critics whine about mediocre acting, unrealistic plots, and racial stereotypes, as expected.