Imagining We Care: “Supporting Our Troops” in Recent War Films
January 22, 2010
I recently watched Brothers (in a theater) and Taking Chance (at home). They tell opposing tales about Americans’ relationships to our troops—disavowal and send ’em to the dustbin versus hero-worshipping, god-fearing sentimentalism—but they frame depictions of the Iraq War through a shared (and safe) jingoistic, family-values, misogynistic vision of America that ameliorates whatever criticism they may (or may not) be making about our illicit war.
This seems to be the tack of most of the contemporary narrative films about Iraq. While the anti-war movement (or what remains of it) has embraced the position of “supporting our troops,” as any decent, moral human being would do, this can easily slide into supporting our military, our war, and its overt agenda of corporate invasion and empire, or at minimum celebrating the beauty of macho shock and awe. I fear that this slippery slope defines most of what we’ve seen.
I was truly baffled by Taking Chance, which re-imagines American as a fantastical place where people actually care about the war in Iraq, think deeply about the lives that are being lost, and will slow down their busy lives (to convoy remains for five hours through winding mountain highways, for instance) to honor the sacrifice of our troops. This tear-jerker belies the much sadder reality where most Americans have forgotten the war exists.