Opinion: Patriotism Isn't Measured by Blockbusters

Oscar-nominated film American Sniper has scored well in the box office, but many of its reviews are not as award-winning.

Since the release of Clint Eastwood’s military film, which stars Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, there has been non-stop backlash from both sides of the political spectrum. And why wouldn’t there be? The film touches upon two of the most controversial topics in the United States--gun rights and the war on terror--so it is fitting that the film be equally controversial.

For the right, the film captures Chris Kyle's bravery and the sacrifices he made for his country, while the left views it not as an epic tale of heroism, but as war propaganda. While both sides are extreme, there are slivers of validity in both arguments.

The issue comes in when patriotism is called into question. More than anything, conservatives have been outraged by the mere idea that the events that unfold in Sniper are not universally regarded as heroic, branding those who don’t fully stand behind the film as unpatriotic. Since when is it unpatriotic to have an opposing opinion about a controversial movie? Regardless of the side taken, it is important to understand that it is perfectly appropriate to dislike Sniper.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Photo courtesy of American Sniper / Facebook

It is troubling to think that Americans cannot express dissenting views of the film without being fearful of being labeled unpatriotic. This was seen in the most extreme of cases when liberal director Michael Moore took to Twitter to express his distaste for the logistics surrounding war.

“My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards.Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse,” read Moore’s tweet. As Twitter quickly erupted with accusation upon accusation, Moore felt the need to justify his right to free speech in a Facebook post, stating he fully supported the troops but opposed the war.

The backlash in Moore’s case, and in many more similar to it, are examples of extreme, unnecessary paranoia. It’s not unpatriotic to criticize a film about a war that had many personal ramifications; it is unpatriotic to prevent others from having the right to their own opinion.

It is upsetting that many aggressive critics--from both the right and the left--fail to understand the implications of a blockbuster film about a war. To the left: Of course the film won’t accurately represent both sides, it’s from the point of view of a gung-ho soldier suffering from PTSD, not a documentary on the Iraq War. To the right: Understand that the film did fail to mention reasons we got into the war in the first place, so liberals do have reason to be a little salty.

All in all, American Sniper is a good movie about brave soldiers. But, it is also a movie about a full-scale invasion. A controversial movie is bound to produce controversial responses--one response isn't more or less patriotic than the other.

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