Matt McHugh

Matt - August - 2010


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Why do Veterans Hate The Hurt Locker ?


August 23, 2010

I finally got around to watching The Hurt Locker. I liked it, though I don't think it quite lived up to the critical hype -- though any time I see a movie that's received immense praise or scorn, I invariably find it neither as bad nor good as its buzz (The Last Airbender being a rare exception!).

Anyway, I generally prefer to read reviews after I see a movie, including assorted web comments (Yahoo, IMDB, etc.). It's interesting how The Hurt Locker received so much praise from civilians and almost universally bad reviews from Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Most of those bad reviews from vets are hung up on the film's inaccuracies regarding military procedures and soldier behavior. Not being a veteran, I can't really affirm those criticisms, but I tend to believe them. Much of the film's depiction of the "maverick" Sgt. James character rang false to me, specifically the way he routinely put himself and his team in danger by disregarding procedure. He struck me less like a hero, and more like a psycho.

As I watched, though, it became clear the film also came to that conclusion. It wasn't trying to paint him as a hero or -- and this is what some vets miss, I think -- even a typical soldier. (e.g., note the portrayal of the two others in his team). Whether he was an adrenaline junkie addicted to combat, or simply so psychologically ravaged by it, Sgt. James was one messed-up dude. The fact he got the job done was in spite of, not because of, his recklessness. This is made patently obvious time and again. Sgt. James is an unstable man who happens to be really good and, thus far, really lucky at disarming improvised explosive devices.

War, like all intense human experiences, transforms those who endure it. Outsiders will never have the understanding of those who lived through it. Conversely, those who have experienced war firsthand often have difficulty looking at it from a broader perspective. The fact so many veterans who see this movie spot a list of things wrong with it certainly indicates that it is flawed. A film like this needs to do its homework and get the details right out of respect for those who actually served. However, as a speculation on how the intensity of combat -- particularly the twisted guerrilla-insurgency of Afghanistan and Iraq -- could warp a man's mental state in a self-destructiveness that might be mistaken for heroism, "The Hurt Locker" makes some interesting points.

I wonder how all those veterans bothered by its inaccuracies would have received this movie were it based not on a real, current conflict theater but some other hypothetical urban war zone. If this weren't Iraq in 2004, but, say, the West Bank in 2015, I think the underlying themes of the film might come through with less interference.

-- mm


From the Private Journal of Glenn Beck


August 29, 2010

Hmm... let's see... how can I take this conservative media pundit thing to the next level? My ratings and advertiser revenue are growing nicely. My book sales are doing great, and my alliance with Palin is really starting to pay off. Still, I need to kick it up a notch. Jingoistic patriotism is good. That always rallies a certain number of people automatically—but, there's a lot of competition over that in the political arena, plus the inevitable backlash against politicians whenever economic downturns hit their constituency. No, I need something that transcends politics, and frankly even nationalism, if I really want to seize the imaginations of all those disgruntled blue-collar red-staters who hate Obama (without really understanding why) and feel betrayed by the Republicans who allowed him to get into office.

Wait a minute... Religion! Ah, of course! Why didn't I think of that before? Nothing beats God when it comes to claims of truth and righteousness! There's always a fair percentage of people in this country that will flock to anyone on TV who invokes God—remember those televangelists in the 70's and 80's that made a killing? They've gone out of fashion a bit, but that's exactly what makes it a good time for a revival (so to speak). And God is ideal, too, for deflecting critics. You can always call claim persecution!

Yes. Yes, this God thing will work perfectly to grab some headlines, build a following, and push me to a new level of national prominence. It may come out that I was raised a Mormon... eh, but most Americans don't really know what that is, and any criticisms of the more conspicuously racist and, to be blunt, delusional aspects of Mormon beliefs can easily be dismissed as from elitist agnostic intellectuals, which my base already hates (again, without really understanding why).

Ooh... this is gonna be good! 8/28... here I come!


P.S.  -  Dear Mr. Satan... your first installment of my soul has been transferred to you via my Swiss bank account. You will receive the additional installments once I have my own television network—as per our agreement—and Ms. Palin has been publicly disgraced after she's outlived her usefulness to me.

-- mm

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