I'll come up with something in a minute.

America Porn

You know about regular porn (sex porn) and torture porn, would Black Hawk Down and Medal of Honor: The Movie* equate to war porn? I got them both this weekend, because I was thinking about how I don’t have many war movies. This is what I do sometimes. I’ll think about wanting a certian kind of movie, and then buy a fist full of them.

I saw BHD once when it first came out and I’ve never seen Private Ryan all the way through before. I didn’t dislike either movie, but nor will I be placing either in my “Best Movie Evah” lists any time soon. I’m not much into war movies, at least not like these. I’d watch The Great Escape before going back to either of these.

The biggest problem I have with Private Ryan (beyond being in the words of my father “the most pornographic movie my I have ever seen”**) is that it over does the whole “World War II started in 1941 as a chance for our ruggedly handsome, brave and noble men to be bravely handsome and ruggedly noble while being nobly rugged and handsomely brave against cartoon bad guys” thing a little too much for me. It’s totally a matter of tone, and they went too far with it.

They weren’t gods, or even great heroes. They were just guys. They grew up to be dads and grandpas, and there is nothing mythical about any of my grandfathers. Trying to tie myth to them does them a great disservice actually, because it stops them from being humans. It robs them of their accomplishments and makes their flaws shine out more brightly instead of dulling them over the years. Also, it robs the whole situation of its reality and makes it like something that never really happened.

Also, my history might be a little shakey, but I could have sworn that there were English, French, Canadian and Australians all fought with us on D-Day. As it happens, it was just the United States that fought, single handed if these movies and video games are to be believed. Of course I could also have sworn that World War Two started in 1937 for Asia and 1939 for Europe, turns out it didn’t get going until ’41, so what do I know? Why is it you almost never see any European Allied soldiers in an American WWII movie or game? Russians get left out a lot too. That’s why I like Enemy at the Gates, they leave the Americans out for a change.

My generation is so fucked up on the idea of World War II that when we meet a vet of that war we don’t know what to do because it’s been played up so much that we honestly thought that they made the whole thing up for a movie. It would be like actually meeting Indiana Jones or something.
“Hey Joe, you remember that scene at the beginning of Frontline? This old dude was actually there.”
“What, like an NPC?”
“Nah, when they did it for the first time. Like for real and stuff man.”
“Wait, that stuff really happened?”
“That’s what he says. It was like before virtual reality. It was actual reality or some shit.”
“Wow, the graphics must have rocked!”
“Yeah, but it’s fucked up, cause this guy is Canadian.”
“We’re no Canadians in World War Two!”
“He says there were!”
“Yeah, and I bet the Nazis didn’t really almost steal the Ark either. Psht. Right!”
It’s not that we can’t take the truth, I’ve read about WWII and watched documentaries, and even watched old movies. The current crop though, lionizes and fetishizes the idea of being in the army during that conflict that they over do it. The Longest Day doesn’t bang on like Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor do. I’m not saying the guys who fought in World War Two don’t deserve our thanks. In fact nothing I’m saying here really has anything to do with them. It’s not about them, but rather my complaint is about how later generations treat them.

I think it comes from a generation of yuppie assholes who didn’t bother to get out of their solipsistic navel gazing until they got to their 40s and 50s and wanted to understand their fathers before it was too late and not from a real understanding of the war. They hit the age where their own kids are calling them assholes and they get that Dad wasn’t such a jerk after all. Of course if they hadn’t been such total shits during the 70s and not called their dads assholes for not letting them have the car they might have had a relationship with their father. It’s not that hard. I have always had a relationship with my father, we talk about stuff and everything. Sadly I think that it’s still naval gazing for the yuppies, they want to know that they came from the greatest generation, a generation of he-men, so they play up the previous generation. If Gen X ever does this shit to our parents I will come to each and every one of your houses and kill you with my bare hands.

It also occurs to me that the Nazis will never get proper respect again because their crimes are both too horrifying to be believed, while their evilness has been fictionalized to the point of cartoonishness. It’s one thing to say they systematically murdered millions of people, but it’s hard to really get that. You can’t easily you’re your head around the efficient way they murdered millions of people. When you have such an incomprehensible crime on your hands, handled with a great deal of callousness on the part of the criminals, it’s easy to attach other crimes to them. The Nazis became the best enemy for that time period, because they were totally evil anyway. Once you’ve got an entire generation watching them commit every crime from stealing the Ark of the Covenant to being in league with vampires then their actual crimes start to seem like not such a big deal.

The mythologizing takes away from the genuine importance of the facts I feel, and that’s what I have against the whole thing. It took me a while to say it but I feel you can give more respect by just laying out the facts than you can dressing them up and trying to polish them to a mirror shine. I’m more for the possibly boring facts than I am the shiny mythology. I figure the story is interesting enough on it’s own without the children and grandchildren banging on about it.

Actually, there is a Zero Punctuation review of one of the Medal of Honor games that struck a cord with me. The review gets a little nasty at America, but then he’s really complaining about how my generation views World War Two, which is greatly my problem.
See Here

As I said already, it’s got nothing to do with the real guys who actually fought, but how we mythologize and fictionalize them.

I can’t say I really liked Black Hawk Down exactly, but I’m not sure you’re really supposed to like it. It’s not exactly a likable film. It doesn’t take its shoes off when it comes in and grunts when it talks. It was an event film, a battle, there isn’t much of a story there. It’s like a big budget historical re-creation for a documentary. I didn’t feel that it was trying to put a noble, brave and ruggedly handsome face on the events. It’s still war-porn, in that it’s a 2.5 hour recreation of a single 16 hour battle, but it didn’t have quite so many false tones to it for me. I felt it was pretty straight forward and honest, which is good enough for me.

*Some one once asked why if so many other popular games had movies MoH didn’t and someone explained they did, just the movie came first.
**My father chooses his words with the sort of care most people would take for what finger they want cut off.

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June 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Humility

Christianity states that we’re supposed to be humble in the eyes of God. Then it tried to claim we were so special that the universe revolved around the planet we occupied and that we were singularly picked as God’s chosen people. Not so damn humble.

Now science, science tells us that we revolve around the sun. That the sun isn’t that special, just medium size and age, and that it sort of revolves around other suns in a group. We’re not even in the middle of the galaxy, just shunted off to one side in an unfashionable region. Our galaxy isn’t anything to write home about either, just another spiral galaxy in a cluster of galaxies that spins around and around.

Humans went from being made by God’s hand to being talking monkeys. Not even divinely inspired talking monkeys. We exist by only the merest accident of fate, another three degrees in any direction and it would be talking squid, or talking dromedaries or something else. Science says that you are a small, fragile being, who only exist at all through a series of random chances so vast in scope that it could never be replicated again and you exist in a universe so vast that even a God could live in it. That’ll make you feel small and humble.

If you really want to win the Humble Olympics (which no one would want to win if you think about it) science comes in over religion anytime.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment