Saturday, January 24, 2015

American Sniping

In reviewing the Clint Eastwood film American Sniper -- which I haven't seen and won't see, not necessarily because I never get around to seeing any movie before it disappears from theaters -- Eamon Murphy talks about various changes Eastwood made to the original story the movie is based on, a book by a US military sniper who from what I can gather from media accounts is a deranged, psychotic, highly delusional individual. A sicko.

The changes Eastwood made to the nutbag's story aren't the focus of Eamon's review, which is more about how the film excuses our war crimes in Iraq. (American Sniper also reviewed here.)

The Film Industry

By Eamon's account, some changes were made to broaden the movie's appeal, some seemed intended to make it more controversial, some were made so as to keep Americans from having to look at themselves and their role in perpetuating their country's policies: policies of, I'll clarify, aggressive Capitalist imperialism.

Note how all the changes have as their intention, consciously or not, to get more people to watch the film and therefore to make more money off it. This is Capitalism, but it demonstrates a particular aspect of it; how the few Capitalist elites who control the means of production -- a critical Marxist concept -- use that control to accumulate bigger piles of money for themselves.

Means of production is usually thought of as factories, machines, railroads, trucks, and all the other things necessary for industrial production, but as we see here it includes access to Hollywood, i.e. the mainstream film industry. It also includes the control of other media like newspapers and TV, which are then used to promote and propagandize certain views and facts and keep others out of the public discourse, and not just to hawk Capitalism's output, its production.

Lasting Effect

American sniper will soon fade from the headlines. Remember all the controversial movies from the past? Eamon refers to The Passion of Christ, which you never hear about any more. This list of the "50 most controversial movies" includes others.

In an article about an upsurge in death threats against Arabs following the release of Eastwood's new film, Rania Kahlek writes, "American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East."

Controversial movies may quickly disappear from public discussion, but they are continually produced and while they are here keep certain things about ourselves near the surface. They keep the waters stirred so that things like our proclivity for and our admiration for violence don't sink to the bottom and disappear entirely into the unconscious where they live and originate from, invisible to our conscious gaze.

Movies like American Sniper, that justify and excuse our lesser natures, exhibit how the control of the means of production -- not just the ownership of factories but control of the media -- can't be left in the hands of a few.

By the way, I ask you, will American Sniper be offered in multiple formats and 70th anniversary Blu Ray editions 70 years from now? I think not.


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