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Before I begin, let’s get one thing straight- Hollywood very rarely gets war movies right. And while that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them and still spend my hard earned money to go see them as soon as they come out, I rarely leave the theater thinking it was an accurate depiction of my time in service.
War is long stretches of boredom broken up by intense moments of fear and endurance. It isn’t the constant gunfights Hollywood would like us to believe. I became one helluva Spades player while overseas, but I have also carried my friends out of combat on my back after the really hard days.
War is a balance.
In the new take on Afghanistan, one that looks back to the beginning, “12 Strong” depicts the first twelve American fighting men who had boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11. These men were heroes, and they did extraordinary things, even if it all didn’t happen the way the film depicts.
And there’s the problem.
The soldiers who cross the pond every day and risk their lives for this country are good enough. Hell, they are more than good enough. Every single one of them are heroes in their own right, because they volunteered to fight a war on behalf of the American people. They signed a blank check payable whenever asked, worth up to their lives.
Is that not good enough?
Bruckheimer, the producer, has a long history of being involved in war movies that depict leading Hollywood heartthrobs (men) as what he must believe the epitome of a soldier to be: Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Con Air, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and now 12 Strong. By making these casting decisions, and by glorifying war, the American public is being misled about what war looks like; what war feels like, and what war means to those who’ve experienced it. It’s becoming diluted.
One of the most common questions a veteran gets when they reintegrate into society is “Did you kill anyone?”. And of course, someone asks that-after all they’ve probably seen a war movie or two. That question has the power to do one of two things. Either A, if the veteran hadn’t discharged his or her weapon during their time of service, they may feel inadequate because they didn’t live up to what society’s standard of what a soldier should be has become. Or B, that veteran will be reminded of what is one of the worst days of their life. Neither option is a good one. So, stop it.
It is time to end the hypermasculinization of America’s military.
It is time to see past the blood and sweat to the tears. We don’t belong on pedestals, or movie screens, but rather at home, with our loved ones.
And if you need an education on what a real soldier, a real hero is like, read about Distinguished Service Cross recipient, Charles Wyckoff. And then let’s change our definition of masculinity.
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up?
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