Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Paddington Bear" vs. "American Sniper"

I saw on some subway platform television screen that the film "American Sniper" had an "astounding" first weekend with ticket sales over $100 million. I think the main factor influencing people to buy those tickets was mindlessness. Did those ticket-buyers think they were specifically endorsing the real-life murderous racism of the film's protagonist, US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle? I don't think so. I think they wanted to see a gritty, realistic war movie. Plenty of excitement. Based on true events when real people actually went and fucking killed each other man!

From the sounds of things, it doesn't appear  as if Chris Kyle thought about very much of anything at all.
“I am not a fan of politics,” wrote Chris Kyle, the 38-year-old former Navy SEAL sniper who was shot and killed with a friend at a Texas firing range on Saturday. Yet, in his best-selling memoir, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” — originally published last year and currently experiencing a sales bump in the aftermath of Kyle’s death — the commando also wrote, “I like war.” The problem, as Kyle would have known if he’d read his Carl von Clausewitz, is that the two aren’t separable; war, as Clauswitz wrote, is the continuation of politics by other means.
Chances are, though, that Kyle never heard of Clausewitz; certainly there’s nothing in “American Sniper” to suggest that he ever thought very deeply about his service, or wanted to. The red-blooded superficiality of his memoir is surely the quality that made it appealing to so many readers.
In Kyle’s version of the Iraq War, the parties consisted of Americans, who are good by virtue of being American, and fanatic Muslims whose “savage, despicable evil” led them to want to kill Americans simply because they are Christians. (Later in his service, Kyle had a blood-red “crusader cross” tattooed on his arm.) While he describes patriotism as the guiding force in his life, Kyle’s patriotism is of the visceral, Toby Keith variety. It consists of loving America — specifically, being overwhelmed emotionally by the National Anthem and flag, and filled with a desire to dedicate one’s life to such symbols — rather than a commitment to tangible democratic principles, such as civilian oversight of the military. That Iraqis, too, might have been patriotically motivated to defend their own country against foreign invaders like himself does not appear to have ever crossed Kyle’s mind.
And a lot of what he did think about turned out to be imaginary! He claims he punched-out Jesse Ventura for an anti-American rant in a bar. He claims to have killed two car-jackers (and to have received praise for this from police all across the country). He claims to have been hired to shoot "looters" (re: "black people") from the roof of the New Orleans Super-Dome. He claims to have been harassed from the Iraq War-version of the meme of the peaceniks spitting on soldiers and calling them baby-killers. He claims they found the WMDs in Iraq, but that this was covered-up so as not to embarrass the French. (!)

From what I've heard, Barry Cooper, who produced the film and plays Kyle, made the character a lot more introspective than he actually was. On top of that, director Clint Eastwood combines patriotic celebration of American goodness and glamourization of combat with cynicism about the Iraq war itself and much more of a focus on the mental scars that combat produces. (I might watch a pirated version of this movie a few years from now, but I won't subsidize this sort of thing.) It's my belief though, that none of these nuances would matter to most of the people who went to see "American Sniper." It's violent enough, and pro-US American enough, to thrill a lot of idiots. The same sort of idiots I rail about on a routine basis here at the schoolyard.

If you don't already know. Chris Kyle died when he and a friend took a buddy of theirs who was suffering from PTSD and substance-abuse and a myriad of other issues, and brought him out to a shooting-range as some sort of lunk-headed version of "therapy" for these problems. Their buddy allegedly shot and killed them and is now on trial for murder. Sane people of average intelligence don't take mentally-ill people to shooting ranges and put guns in their hands. But this is the whole problem of Chris Kyle the man and Chris Kyle the myth. Both the man and the myth were the embodiment of the dangerous delusion and ignorance that I'm always going on about. America itself might eventually be done in by the national version of Chris Kyle's delusion, hubris, narcissism and militarism. (Ecocide, Wall Street corruption, picking fights with Russia and China, etc.)

Me? I didn't go to see "American Sniper." I took my seven year-old to see "Paddington" after it received a rave review in Toronto's NOW Weekly.
But writer/director King’s remarkable adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved children’s books spins the story of the lost little bear from Darkest Peru – voiced by The Hour’s Ben Whishaw – into a thoughtful and genuinely moving metaphor for the immigrant experience. ... The film is cartoonish in precisely the right way, situating its talking, marmalade-loving, tragically accident-prone protagonist in a lush, just slightly exaggerated universe of delightful British actors. And on an emotional level, it’s the story of a lost child finding friends and a place to belong. I’d have loved this when I was a kid. Hell, I love it now. 
The trailer is definitely not the "Paddington Bear" you know from the books and the older cartoons. But rest assured, the film in its entirety conveys enough of the original spirit.


greg said...

Great post. Thank you.

Um, wanted to run something by you. I Was trying to read a research paper on surveillance and I kept reading sentences like: "surveillance occurs in varied ways in practice and has radically different and uneven outcomes, in both social and spatial terms, depending on multiple interactions between global processes and national or local factors."

Did that sentence say anything at all? Could he have left that out completely?

I realize it's way off topic here, as usual, but I'm either too fucking stupid to get this or is this just horrible writing? At this point, I have no idea. Please help me.

Thanks again.

thwap said...


I'll answer you but first you have to tell me a little bit about yourself and why you seem determined to haunt my blog and ask me questions that aren't related to any of the posts.

greg said...

Sorry. It's not a casual chat room and I think.....it doesn't matter.


thwap said...


So you want to remain an enigma?

In all seriousness, if you have issues of some sort, I don't mind. It's not a big deal. I just find your behaviour to be somewhat unusual.

greg said...

Thank you for writing back. I guess I have some issues. I'm really just some guy who keeps getting shocked by what goes on. I mean, I think that I expose my ignorance a lot because I figure, I might get some answers and if people think I'm an idiot . ...........Sorry, I'm rattling on. I didn't think you'd even write back when you said I was haunting your blog. Sounded like I was done.

greg said...

When I said it's not a casual chat room, what I meant was "I realize it's not a casual chat room and should not have treated it as such." I'm about as mysterious as mayonnaise that's close to it's due date and keeps waiting for someone ......at any rate, I'm just some white guy who never got his shit together.

thwap said...

Ha! (About the mayonnaise part.)

Sorry to have upset you.

Now that you've answered me, I'll answer back. I think that was bad writing, but not terribly so. It can be translated while you read it. But it does suck the life out the subject matter.

For me, really bad writing requires one to stop and re-read a few times, each fucking sentence, to try to understand the author's intentions.

"Patriarchy needs to be de-programmed from the urge to control whatever circumstance they exist in, and others around them. The examples we're given, from the highest levels of the social, economic, educational and political strata do precious little to inspire the type of change that is necessary. All the same, since it makes no sense to wait for patriarchal institutions and the politics that serves it to act upon itself, de-programming should begin in earnest as a personal initiative. Not being deterred when perfection is elusive is part of the de-programming. Everything else, from terrorism to acts of violence against women, against a myriad of other potential targets, are borne out of the patriarchal mindset that prefers to impose itself as the standard behaviour we're routinely witness to, no matter where we care to look. In many ways we are talking about forms of mental illness that encompass a range of designations. Our society and culture is a very sick one after all, where the symptoms couldn't be more obvious and explicit, from the comparatively mild to the extreme."

greg said...

See, that's sounds like it could be reduced to "men can be pricks."
But then, if it was a scholarly paper, they'd spend the next 200 pages defining what a prick was and how it applies to different cultures and contexeses.

By the way, did you hear the one about the stuffed weasel? Just awful.

I'm leaving, just as soon as I figure out how to get out of this box.

Anonymous said...

"From what I've heard, Barry Cooper, who produced the film and plays Kyle..."

I think you mean Bradley Cooper, unless that's some sort of joke or reference I'm not getting.

I do like Paddington Bear, thought I haven't seen the new movie.

thwap said...


Sometimes that scholarly comprehensiveness is important. Other times, it's excessive.

thwap said...


Bradley Cooper. No joke. T'was just sloppiness on my part.