Monday, December 19, 2011

There's a movie coming out called Act of Valor and it's an affront to democracy

Here's the trailer. Thrill as Actual Navy Seals engage vaguely threatening terrorists and destroy them with massive firepower!

I'm not some puritan who wants to ban action movies, of which I am an avid viewer. I play and enjoy lots of video games with, well, dubious takes on the proper role of the military in civil society. By no means do I want all popular entertainment to be weighted down with leaden morals.

But something about this film just gives me the creeps. Maybe it's the way it intermixes solemn dialogue about brotherhood and claims of verisimilitude with pure gun porn. Maybe it's the way that the trailer shows Our Fighting Men annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force, but asks us to cheer for them anyway. Maybe it's because the film actually does seem intent on foisting its leaden morals upon us, but is unwilling to extend those morals beyond rough-spoken paeans to the nobility of following orders. One immediately senses that the film received the financial backing and technical assistance of the U.S. military -- it's hard to rent out an aircraft carrier for a film shoot otherwise -- and one can thus safely assume that all moral grayness will be expunged. (Soldiers feeling the pangs of homesickness while pressed into the defense of their country does not count as "moral grayness." Even Stalin's films had that.) All sacrifices will be noble and necessary, all killings will be justified, and the skill and professionalism of the U.S. Navy Seals will be demonstrated time and again.

It gets worse, though. I looked it up and it turns out that film actually began its life as a recruitment ad for the military -- a purpose it clearly has not abandoned. It's not just a piece of entertainment with questionable morals, but an actual attempt to direct young men and women into the business of violence and slaughter by celebrating violence and slaughter. Remember when the military recruited with promises of a college education and self-betterment? Now it's trying to lure in unsuspecting children with the promise of heroism and the chance to look really awesome while shooting really big guns at really bad dudes. Of course, in reality, a lot of kids who join up will get their limbs torn off by anonymously planted explosives. Their friends will retaliate by accidentally blowing up a Pakistani wedding party. Acts of valor, indeed.

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