Glorification of war is over. We can see it in all its ugliness now.
WAR MOVIES HAVEN'T CHANGED
THEY JUST CAME OUT OF THE CLOSET
By: Jim Moore
The scene captured me when first I saw it. It was from the old movie about World War I, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” in which a German soldier speaks to a classroom of young, eager students anxious to get into the trenches and fight for the Fatherland.
The soldier had just returned from the front lines, physically and mentally battered, and was about to give the kids some straight talk; not about going to war for the glory of it, but about staying out of the war because of the unspeakable hellishness of it.
The scene impressed me because, after the lads had just been given a pep talk about the pride and privilege of fighting for their country, their teacher, unaware of what would be said next, had invited the war veteran, who was sitting in the classroom, to get up and tell the class about his war experiences.
After the soldier spoke, the whole class was predictably in a state of shock. They had heard, first-hand, the truth of war’s bloody horrors and they were numb with apprehension; which of course upset the teacher no end. He had been playing the game of one-eyed jacks, and this soldier had had the audacity to show the kids the other side of Jack’s face.
I got a vivid reminder of this scene when I read Michael Medved’s thoughtful article based on his lecture, “War on Film.” Medved is no slouch. He is a syndicated radio host, a best-selling author, a Yale Law School attendant, and a respected film critic.
But Michael Medved, in my humble opinion, is also dead wrong.
In his article, he reminds us of the military recruiters:
“people who go to high schools and colleges and tell young students about their opportunities to serve their country in the military.” After which, Medved tells us that now there also are “counter-recruiters” who go to these same schools and tell the same students why they shouldn’t serve their country in the military. (A position, by the way, that has strong support from some teachers’ unions.)
But my back went up when Medved (who obviously supports military action) asks the question: “How have we come to such a pass?” What pass? Have we no right to challenge the wisdom of getting involved in questionable wars? No right to give future soldiers both sides of a war's grim scenario? And worst of all, no right to give citizens free access to information that helps them make decisions that will affect their lives?
Medved condemns Hollywood for what he calls, “subversion of the classic war film.” He cites movies like “Platoon”, “The Jacket” and “Courage Under Fire”, in which evil conspiracies, brainwashing, military cover-ups and mistreatment of prisoners are portrayed in living color and with grisly realism.
Whether Hollywood has a conspiratorial agenda or not, isn’t the point. The point is, war movies have indeed changed in a fundamental way, but not as Medved says, “in a way that is dangerous for the health of our culture and for the strength of our republic.”
We can’t have it both ways. Either war is hell or it isn’t. If it isn’t, we are wasting our time writing about it. But if it is, then dumping the phony, Wayne-esque, Hollywood-set depictions of war and replacing them with the blood-and-guts realism of what war is all about is a tough honesty that Hollywood has, up to now, been notoriously short of.
Medved bolsters his position by listing three elements he believes were always classic in American war movies: (1) glorification of the fighting man, (2) sympathy for the American cause, (3) a portrayal that a war means something.
This three-element description of what makes a classic war movie, and Medved’s indignation at seeing it disappear from the screen, is either a case of juvenile nostalgia, ignorance of war’s horrors, or “my country, right or wrong” patriotism.
Glorifying the fighting man is an inappropriate generalization. The only glory is earned glory, and it is only earned when a man is fighting to defend his country, his home, his family and his freedom.
Causes deserve sympathy only when they are honest, just, and right. When, for whatever reason, a cause is not honest, just, and right, it deserves no sympathy. Even if it is an American cause.
The only time a war means anything (if it ever does) is when it is fought in defense of something worth defending. War for any other reason has no reason behind it, and is merely one more example of man’s acquiescence to the animalistic side of his nature.
And in view of where this society is going, we hardly need more evidence of that.
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