The question is not whether or not films have changed, the question is how has their evolution changed us and our perception of soldiers? Films are modern societies closest connection to the events that extend beyond the dull eight to five cubicle job, and the media exploits that. Films have become a means for the public to get their adrenaline fix at the expense of a soldiers traumatic experience. The public’s lack of understanding has created issue both at home and at war.
Soldiers are people, just like every other human being and they deserve that understanding. The hero status that movies put on our heroes has begun creating a rift between our soldiers and the public. The buff soldier capable of taking on an entire army single handed should not be how we view our soldiers. A friend of mine who served in the air force once said ” Don’t call me a hero, I’m not. If I was a real hero all my buddies would have come home safe.” The difference between a real man and his film counterpart could not be any different. Think of the ending to Act of Valor for example, the movie portrays the soldiers in the film as heroes even through Lt. Rorke’s funeral. Yet after losing a comrade I doubt many soldiers would agree with that standpoint. Films even go to the extreme of making it so that our heroes in movies seemingly have to perish. The final lines in Act of Valor are as follows:
When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death
So that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way
Sing your death song
And die like a hero going home
Consider what this perception of soldiers by the public could be doing the already fragile states of our veterans.
Consider the scene taken from The Hurt Locker:
One of the common misconceptions about of military soldiers is their transition from the battle field back to their family. Since September 11th, war has seemingly become a drug to our soldiers portrayed in film. In American Sniper and the Hurt Locker, the soldiers are depicted as distant from their wife and child, aggressive and seemingly addicted to the battlefield. Films companies portray this view for entertainment reasons solely. A soldier battling the side affects to war is more intriguing to an audience that a soldier fully adapted to life at home. For this reason, Kyle is shown as a man who can not more on from war despite being with his family. Even despite his wife’s pleas for him to feeling compelled to return to the battlefield despite his loving wife’s pleas for him to remain at home with his family.
In American Sniper Kyle’s wife says “Even when you’re here, you’re not here. I see you, I feel you, but you’re not here” furthering imploring the addictive hold war has on soldiers in the films. Soldiers do not deserve to be seen as heartless and emotionless when many are loving family figures. For many soldiers they go to war to protect their families and trends show that children follow their parents into the military and I doubt that is because of the horrible father movies make soldiers to be.
The unfortunate truth behind films is that it makes soldiers heroes instead of the ordinary people that they are, as Americans, we tend to see our soldiers as unbreakable. Soldiers are supposed to be protectors and there to do the greatest good. Yet every day soldiers are broken emotionally, physically and psychologically by war. What does the public think of the man with a torn off limb who cries in fear after a car backfires? The truth is that the vast majority of soldiers are no the hero type they are deemed by the public. PTSD, or at least the symptoms, is a very real state of life for so many soldiers. The era of movies post 9/11 touch base with PTSD as only a way to make their characters seem more human. Yet these films portray a false sense of PTSD to the public, causing a lack of understanding for our “broken” soldiers at home. PTSD is not about uncontrollable anger or killing sprees, yet that is what the movies convey to the public.
An article by the newspaper for Staten Island University gave an interesting viewpoint on the discussions that can be struck up by movies in the post 9/11 era.