The University of Maryland-College Park has decided to cancel a scheduled screening of the patriotic masturbatory snuff film American Sniper, which details the insane, implausible, entirely fictional invasion of a sovereign state by another sovereign state, under the pretense of contrived pseudo-evidence. The movie details the little known military career of George W. Bush, the most prolific sniper and war-criminal in recent US history. The purpose of the film was to show how traumatic it is to be an American hero forced to kill all the Muslims guilty of terrorism–so all the Muslims, ever. Okay, so I didn’t exactly watch the whole movie…oh wait, yes I did….Never mind.
So the movie isn’t about George W. Bush, or is it? The movie isn’t a snuff film, or is it? The movie isn’t about the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation-state, or is it? The movie isn’t masturbatory patriotism, or is it (on this point, it certainly is)? The point I want to make here is, that regardless of the issues with the film–and there are A LOT, many of which are offensive to Muslims, pacifists, any one with any rudimentary knowledge of history, understanding of how the US came to be involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq (here’s a hint, it wasn’t to find Osama bin Laden), or really anyone with any sense of empathy or basic human decency–ignoring such a popular cultural product that is indeed so very offensive is completely unhelpful, at least to everyone who finds it offensive. This is really the problem with censorship in general, sometimes seeing hyper-sensationalized, congratulatory portrayals of war and the costs of war, is useful, especially for those people capable of critical thinking (actually, maybe we should ban everything…).
We don’t need to stop watching/consuming these types of films or cultural products more broadly; we need to watch them critically, and criticize them thoughtfully, loudly, and publicly.
You can watch a movie (or even hear about it) and wish it was never made, but it was made so what are your options? You can ignore it and go along with your life. Other people will watch it, some will think it is amazing and some will hate it. Some people will be aroused to the point of ejaculating on live television about it (see any Fox News coverage of American Sniper for an example of this semen-stained approach to cultural commentary).
The movie has already made millions of dollars, so boycotting it won’t make a dent at this point. What can you do? Will you allow it to play at your university, and then use that forum to begin a wider social dialogue about the portrayal of violence in film or of the Iraqis in this movie in particular (spoiler alert: every Iraqi, with no nuance or sophistication is portrayed as being guilty of some heinous act against American or her soldiers), or will you be loudly offended that it is even playing and get it taken off the schedule before any one else has the chance to criticize it and what it represents?
If you believe that in watching a film you are required by science to agree with every single aspect of it, I suggest you take the latter option. If, by some weird chance you have not agreed with certain things in movies you have seen in the past, and you do not think this particular movie is immune to that same response in yourself and others, I suggest you let the movie be played and then talk about why the content of the movie is repulsive, offensive, and evinces the horrible acts all of us as Americans have been implicated in. Critique is democratic and necessary for true emancipatory progress. Ignoring–or worse, banning– what we should be criticizing is undemocratic and helps the elites maintain their exploitative, war-justifying ideological hegemony. Watch the movie, think about it, and then judge it and everything it stands for…. unless of course you firmly believe ignoring war crimes is the best way to make sure they never happen again.
PS: For a great critical review of the film, check this one out: http://contemporarycondition.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-quiet-american.html