Good American Sniper: A Different Kind Of War Essay Example
The 2015 film, American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood is meant to be an account of Chris Kyle’s multiple tours of duty overseas. Serving as a Navy Seal, Kyle served the United States military, retiring in 2009, with what he described as severe post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other psychological issues. He went on to co-author an autobiography, also titled “American Sniper” in which he gives firsthand accounts of his tours, as well as the issues he suffered because of them before being murdered by civilian while helping fellow veterans. While the film’s initial release was seen as a rally for the troops, as well as an outcry for more support upon their return, it is an egregious affront to intelligence of the American people, as well as the world’s population. In short, American Sniper is not patriotic, but rather another piece of repackaged war propaganda being used to trick the audience into supporting combat that has never been justified.
War is an ugly thing. Many, even those who were in immediate support of Kyle and in favor of his works, often wonder why we wage war. A popular explanation offered by Phillip Hammond in, “Screens of Terror: Representations of War and Terrorism in Film and Television Since 9/11,” is that war grows from one group of males’ innate urge to become organized in an effort to attack another group of males . Hammond goes on to explain, however, that while this may have been the basic biological instinct for war at one time, our primal agenda has long died out; we now fight because of our culture and having been doing so for at least 15,000 years . With this being the case, opposing cultures have limited options once war breaks out: they can flee, surrender, protest peacefully, for use force to resist. With these options has also come the provocations of premptive attacks, both physically and psychologically; one of which can best be described as propaganda.
American Sniper appears to give a rousing story about Chris Kyle, a dedicated American who gives his body and mind selflessly for country. However, the film leaves out entire details about Kyle’s prior psychological indiscretions, while completely fabricating other facts that simply did not happen. For example, in the film, Kyle appears to have a score to settle with an opposing sniper. This opposing sniper is never labeled a Muslim, part of the Islamic nation, or even a native to one of the warring countries. However, he is given the same dark skin tone as those we are supposed to consider our enemy. This, according to Hammond, is a popular propoganda trick . Since the September 11 attacks, studies show the specificity concerning labeling our enemies in television shows and films has decreased by an estimated 42%. This has caused the American public to transfer their hate from Saudi Arabians, to the Iraqi people, to Muslims, and now to anybody with a darkened, or brown complexion. It is dangerous, but many films, such as American sniper use tricks such as the unnamed, dark-skinned sniper without a country in an effort to unify Americans against a common enemy. In reality they are only unifying Americans against generalized groups of people, rather than true terrorist cells.
Furthermore, American Sniper was used as propaganda rather than an accurate representation of the war effort because it misrepresented Chris Kyle himself. In the film, Kyle is portrayed as an individual who is very apologetic about his actions; in fact, the first confirmed kills he has on tour involve shooting a young boy and his mother . It appears, throughout the film, that Kyle struggles to recover, but only because his heart is breaking for his men, as well as the innocent people around him. For example, he uses one native individual as an informant to capture a terrorist. When something goes wrong, the terrorist kills the informant and his son. Kyle is emotionally and psychologically distraught by this; viewers see the reprecussions of this incident throughout the majority of the film as he nearly gets divorced and fails to care properly for his children . American Sniper the film smacks of sadness, begging the viewer to pull for the war effort and support the troops, because they are obviously going through so much.
Kyle’s official autobiography tells a much different story about his opinion toward the natives, however. For example, he speaks of a woman he shot from atop a building, stating, “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul . While it cannot be confirmed if he is speaking about the first woman he shot while on tour, he does not mourn for her, nor feel badly about her death as he appears to for every women he kills in the film. Furthermore, Kyle immediately admits after recounting shooting this woman that he and many other soldiers referred to the locals as, “savages . He is not speaking only about the individuals he assassinated, nor only the ones he suspected of terrorism, but every native citizen he came in contact with in Iraq.
These contrasts of Kyle in the film and his novel propaganda running rampant. While the names may be the same, and the film claims to use Kyle’s novel as inspiration, it is little more than a footnote to Kyle’s character. The true SEAL documented his thoughts and feelings about fighting, war, family, PTSD and many other things after he retired. All alterations are used to induce drama, or feelings of compassion and understanding in viewers; in short, we are supposed to believe Kyle is a hero, psychologically damaged by a war he was driven to simply because he was a good guy. In reality, Kyle was insane before he went to war, remained mean and angry throughout the war, and returned just as crazy after the war. The real man thought native Iraqi people, even innocent bystanders, were savages. He felt no remorse for the people he killed, and considered war to be fun. In a literal sense, Chris Kyle enjoyed killing people. The Chris Kyle portrayed in the film hides this psychopathic reality, opting to sub in a sad, sorrowful individual who would give anything to not feel so conflicted between protecting his men and raising his family.
How can we, as viewers, not feel sympathetic to his plight when he is such a twisted character? Showing Kyle stuck in such a precarious position, fighting for his country and trying to protect his men while also struggling to care for and love his family is a situation every American wants to be sympathetic toward. Hammond reminds us that, even before 9/11, we have been brainwashed to support what goes on in our native country. He also notes in his report that post-traumatic stress, not unlike the extreme case we see experienced by the film version of Kyle, is often the brain’s way of resisting killing other humans; this fact has been extorted abundantly for sympathy toward the war effort since 9/11. In reality, the brain can overcome its resistance to kill through intense training, much like what Chris Kyle must have undergone to become a Navy SEAL. It does not mean that a SEAL cannot get PTSD, only that its overt use, much like in this case, is used to extort the viewer and vilify the opposing side. It is all the more relevant because, in Kyle’s novel, while he admits to PTSD, he does not say that is why he returned. Instead he cites that if his family had not needed him, he would still be fighting.
In sum, while American Sniper is initially seen as another trophy for America’s military enterprise, it is in fact, propagandized garbage. The film makes up villains without any specificity in an attempt to gain favor with the viewer while giving them a target for the hate the film is meant to generate. Moreover, the film does not represent Kyle accurately. It claims to be based on Kyle’s autobiography, and in many ways is. The movie, however, neglects to share that Kyle was never remorseful for the lives he took, believed the natives to be savages, and did not return due to overwhelming PTSD. The film glorifies the war effort, as well as the American military while demonizing not only terrorists, but also the Middle East in general. While most Americans are buying into the film, they should, in reality, be offended by its simple-minded attempt to trick the audience.
American Sniper. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Cooper Bradley and Sienna Miller. 2015. Film.
Hammond, Phillip. "Screens of Terror: Representations of War and Terrorism in Film and Television Since 9/11." Selected Works (2011): 5-16. Document.
Kyle, Chris, Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. New York: Harper Collins, 2012. Book.
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