The American Sniper, Snipes Truth (RELS 348)

On January 27th, The Huffington Post featured Lee C. Camp’s (2015) article “Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, and the American Messiah,” which addressed the buzz surrounding the heroism of the movie. Camp brought attention to the underlying problematic virtues that the movie advocated for American citizens. Lee (2015) explains the essential plotline as “the young man who faces his own demons, but finds within himself and the Texas and familial fabric whence he comes the resources to become an exemplar of courage and the warrior virtues. With his lethal focus, he is fierce, loyal, disciplined, and patriotic…” (para.3). This represents American belief that with hard work and perseverance, one can overcome any obstacle and become a hero. In the end, a former veteran kills the American sniper. Lee (2015) compares this to the equivalent of a Messiah. The sniper even carries along a bible with him throughout the movie, suggesting that he is the force of good.

The article illustrates how it is easy to admire the courage and strength of someone who is seen as an American hero. The problem that Lee sees with this ignorant acceptance of heroic attributes is that promoting the actions of the American sniper is ignoring the historical context and the other side of the story. Lee recognizes that the movie splits the world into good and evil. Lee (2015) goes on to explain the significant problem that the movie ignores. For example, the imperialistic presence in the Iraq wars has contributed to the deaths of many innocent children and that U.S actions ignore that “there is no historically primitive goodness and badness in the political sense, and for us to continue to believe and perpetuate this myth is sheer madness that will even yet more rapidly throw us into the pit of hell which we are enlarging at an alarming rate with our fetish for military might…” (para. 13). This article recognizes that yes, there are troubled forces in Iraq but the context and the resentment that these counties feel towards the imperialistic force of the U.S, that has killed and destroyed their land and people, is overlooked. Again, there is a clear cut between what is evil and what is good, where in reality the world has a lot more grey area.

The movie uses Messianic language to further support killing “in the name of God”, in order to save God’s people from the retched tyrants of Iraq. All in all, Lee’s (2015) point can be summed up with, “The New Testament is subversive to imperialist agendas because it refuses to prioritize the “American” story Eastwood is telling: it refuses to prioritize a good guys versus bad guys narrative, and insists that we are all caught up in the drama of brokenness…” (para.18). Although the movie would like to portray the sniper as a hero/savior and one of great virtues, it does the opposite. Lee agrees that the American sniper can be seen as a hero in his bravery but it is ignorant to endorse all of the bloody actions that follow.

I agree with this article. Media sources and the Hollywood industry take liberty in their creation of material that can end up influencing and supporting dominant ideologies present in society. With the U.S and Iraq wars, as an American, it is easy to pit evil against the good. It is easy to ignore the Imperialist presence that the U.S has had in Iraq, and to ignore the consequences that a military presence can have on another culture when it is not your own. I agree with the points that Lee brought up, and I think that is important to view these films with a critical lens. How can a country justify an eye for an eye?




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