Monday, January 23, 2006

The Anti-War War Movie

There is talk that many Vietnam films are anti-war, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But, actually, Vietnam war films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr and Mrs Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible, and they will tell their friends at church and their family this, but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Travis Air Force Base and ... Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man.
- Anthony Swafford, Jarhead
Interestingly enough, Swafford's name has recently been linked with James Frey's, in the context of exaggerated memoirs. I've yet to read much of the controversy around Swafford's. At least, in the opening chapter of his book, Swafford warns us:
Thus what follows is neither true nor false but what I know.
His emphasis, and essentially the same defense Frey used. Only, he failed to introduce his book this way, though he did spend a good deal of his book emphasizing his passionate desire to pursue the truth above all else.

Elsewhere, this essay by Drew Morton makes some interesting points about the difficulties of making an anti-war film, especially in the context of David O. Russell's Three Kings.

So far, Jarhead's a pretty gripping read.

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