So, the wailing, the sobbing, the gnashing of teeth from the so-called intellectual and cultural elite over the runaway box-office success of American Sniper is pure music to my ears … all the more so since I started calling for this kind of movie to be made … oh, in the early days of the Daily Brief, back when it was still called Sgt. Stryker. It didn’t take the WWII-era studios to get cracking and crank out all kinds of inspirational military flicks within a year of Pearl Harbor, the disaster in the Philippines and the fall of Wake Island. Of course, those were full-service movie studios, accustomed to cranking out movie-theater fodder on an assembly-line basis. There was, IIRC one attempted TV series, set in an Army unit in Iraq, which was basically recycled Vietnam War-era military memes, and died after a couple of episodes, drowned in a sea of derision from more recent veterans, especially after an episode which featured an enlisted soldier smoking dope. On deployment. In a combat zone. The producers of the show had obviously never heard of Operation Golden Flow. Or maybe they had, and assumed it was something porn-ish.
We did get at least a cute and military-knowledgeable TV comedy series out of the last ten years of the military experience – Enlisted – which barely lasted a single season. And then there were a whole long series of well-meaning movie flops, out of which only Hurt Locker seemed to come within a country mile of realistically dealing with the military experience in this last decade. And so now we have Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which is packing them in at the mega-plexes and sending entertainment figures like Michael “Jabba-the-Hutt” Moore and Seth Rogan into epic fits of pearl-clutching, and inspiring dark warning of everything from Nazi-style propaganda to a possible anti-Muslim backlash. Said backlash, by the way, is rather like the Loch Ness monster, or the chupacabra; there are people absolutely convinced that it exists, but only rare and usually blurrily-photographed sightings provide any evidence at all.
One might think that the success of American Sniper, in contrast with previous mainstream movie offerings might effect some kind of turnabout when it comes to making movies about the military experience in the last ten years. One should not count on it. Michael Medved pointed out decades ago, in Hollywood VS America, that most major players in the movie business were too much invested in making movies that were artistic, and ‘risky’ and ‘stuck it to the establishment’ (whatever establishment suited, presumably those that it would be safe for Hollywood to stick it to). Rather than make movies that were broadly appealing, refrained from excessively epatering the poor old bourgeoisie, and upheld our common values – and which would make a mint at the box office – they would prefer the accolades of critics and peers.
My own crystal ball likely could use a re-calibration, but from where I sit – at home and preferring to watch movies through streaming video on a modest flat-screen TV – it looks like mainstream Hollywood prefers to make movies for each other, rather than the rest of us. Discuss.
(Crossposted at The Daily Brief.)