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.


3 Responses to “Imagining We Care: “Supporting Our Troops” in Recent War Films”

  1. J.F. Says:

    Hi Alex,

    Here is the link to the “Dear John” movie trailer:

    I can’t stomach watching this because I don’t want the devastating pain and trauma I experienced from my claustrophobic position in waiting for my husband to return tidily packaged and edited for mass consumption.

    Maybe I’m not giving enough credit to the young women and girls who will watch this – who this movie was marketed to – but I can’t stomach the idea that they’ll come out of the theater longing for their “own soldier” to write letters to.

    That kind of manufactured desire from an artificial seperation was not and never will be romantic.

  2. MP:me Says:

    Thanks for letting me see this godawful trailer, I guess…I think, besides the manufactured desire you mention, Dear John uses the war as an unapologetic excuse for macho-lust, reifying heterosexual norms that would be suspect elsewhere.

  3. […] another war, the Second World one this time. While I do sometimes pen here about both Holocaust and anti-war cinema, due to reasons both familial and political, neither of those themes will be my concern, but […]

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