Hollywood Doesn't Understand the Military

It’s pretty well known and obvious that Hollywood is mostly filled with the few in this country who don’t see our military as a force of good, the few who actually praise American hating dictators like Che Guevera, the few who believe in Occupy Wall Street, etc.

To witness the former in action, just pick up any modern film about the War on Terror or any film about the Vietnam War. There’s nothing wrong with a liberal film or an anti- war film (more on this later), but these partisan films that regularly present America and our military as savages destroying the planet and natives in their own countries is not only tiresome but completely disgusting.

The most obvious example is “Avatar.” In this film, James Cameron presented corporate America as the bad guys trying to take over another planet and their army was full of former commandos who loved the action and taking innocent lives. Really? Sure, this film was science fiction, but the anti- military tone taken by the film was way too obvious and was a complete turn off. There was also “The Hurt Locker.” This film presented a group of Army bomb diffusers. The hopeless message the film presents in the end for almost every character is supposed to give an anti-war tone, but it truly felt anti military. Every soldier presented in the film was either racist, ignorant or crazy.

“Avatar” went on to become the highest grossing film in the world and “The Hurt Locker” won the Best Picture Academy Award.

What does the military think about this? I can only give you a fraction of that answer. I am merely an Army Reserves soldier who has little more than a year in. What I can tell you is this: soldiers love movies. With a job that gives you so much travel and, sometimes, down time movies are the perfect way to pass the time. And being away from your family for a year fighting an unclear war in the desert can present stress. One antidote seems to be escaping through the medium of film. A popular topic seems to always be film, but what about Hollywood’s treatment of the military? What about extreme examples like “Redacted?” They go almost unnoticed and that’s the truth.

I’ve heard countless NCOs, privates, etc. talk about protesters, celebrities speaking out against the wars, blah, blah, blah. But, they always mention these topics in brief because there’s an understanding that those who don’t support the military and talk their liberal talk have no clue about the military or any man or woman who dons a uniform in the morning. They’ve probably never served and live in fantasy lands where they can say or do whatever they want without acknowledging that the people they harass and present as killers are the people who fight for that freedom every day.

The film “Redacted” presented a group of soldiers who rape a Middle Eastern woman. The film was shot in a found footage fashion by “Scarface” director Brian De Palma. One man in Europe took the film to heart and shot two soldiers. This is obviously an extreme example, but still. We have countless soldiers who protect freedom every day. They didn’t choose to fight the war on terror, many do not even approve. But, someone’s gotta do it and considering less than one percent of America actually serves I say we praise those who choose to serve rather than attack them because we can’t understand them. “In the Valley of Elah” is another film that presents nearly all its soldier characters as either liars or sick and abusive people. Why? Where is the factual evidence that inspired these stories? It’s nowhere. It exists in the mind of liberal Hollywood.

It’s understood in the military that Hollywood is what it is: a liberal place filled with liberals who have never served and wouldn’t be caught dead picking up a rifle to do what a soldier does every day. But, god forbid you don’t catch them shaking hands and laughing with murderers like Hugo Chavez. There are exceptions, however. There are a few filmmakers who seem to almost always speak to the sentiments held by those who serve. One is Clint Eastwood. Whether it’s the macho nature of “Gran Torino” or the ruthless justice of “Dirty Harry,” Eastwood always seems to be a safe bet. And he has made anti war films, but he’s done it in a way that respects those who serve. And I guarantee you this has more to do with his time in the Army than most think.

Eastwood gave us “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” They presented the same conflict, but from both sides of the battle. In the wrong hands, this could have easily been a liberal preaching, American hating opportunity for the director. Eastwood knew better. He presented both films almost perfectly. He was able to delve into the issues of the way people perceive war and the way we perceive our enemies with grace and solitude as a filmmaker and a man. It’s a shame that there aren’t enough Eastwoods to go around.

Filmmakers without the grace and military experience of Eastwood have presented similar films that are seen as blatantly ignorant and anti American as well as anti soldier. To say this comes down to liberal or conservative is simple minded. For instance, hardcore conservative John Wayne made the incredibly ignorant “The Green Berets,” while uber liberal but Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone made the admittedly liberal, but fantastic “Platoon.” It doesn’t come down to pro or anti war. Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have both spoken out against the war. It comes down to understanding versus non understanding.

Though a majority of Hollywood seems to share the same anti- military tone (most of the films aren’t even worth mentioning or discussing at length) there seems to be a recent shift. There’s the upcoming film “Act of Valor” which presents active duty Navy Seals fighting….terrorists!? I know. I had to read that twice as well. There’s also the film “Red Tails” which producer George Lucas has admitted as “jingoistic” and “very patriotic.” I think Hollywood has, for the most part, realized that films that speak against our military do not make money usually. But, films that praise them can be universally accepted even by those who serve.

My company and I recently took a trip to Fort Devens, Mass. On the way to the base they played a couple of the “X-Men” films. the bus was full of talking and laughing and snarling at the screen. What was presented was Hollywood at its finest. Big special effects, girly men and blah, blah, blah. On the way back, we watched “Gladiator” and “We Were Soldiers.” There was almost no talking. Everyone was glued to the screen. Both films presented soldiers driven by code and fighting for duty. This sentiment spoke to almost every soldier on that bus even if they didn’t want to admit it.

Quality Movies Respectful and True of Our Military: “Saving Private Ryan,” “Tears of the Sun,” “Heartbreak Ridge,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Full Metal Jacket”