NEW YORK -- The Clint Eastwood movie “American Sniper” has become the latest proxy in America’s ongoing culture war, the biopic sparking a national debate along the now formulaic battle lines – flag wavers on the right, latte drinkers on the left.
The film, which tells the story of real-life Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, who served four tours in Iraq and racked up 160 confirmed kills, enjoyed a hugely successful opening, taking $105.3 million over the recent holiday weekend. It has also been nominated for six Academy Awards.
However, a couple of Tweets – one from filmmaker Michael Moore, the other from Canadian comedian Seth Rogen – were enough to set off the familiar bi-polar backbiting and dreary one-upmanship that has come to define modern America.
Here’s Moore's offering:
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— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 18, 2015
And here’s Rogen's:
American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that's showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds.— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) January 18, 2015
The film Rogen referred to, which shows a German sniper killing Allied soldiers from a clock tower at the end of Tarantino's movie, is a Nazi propaganda film.
So "cowards" and "Nazis".
The United States being a country in which the dominant religion is nationalism, the military and military personnel are somewhat sacrosanct. As such, the tweets were immediately decried as blasphemy, and emblematic of how "Hollywood" (even though "American Sniper" was made there) is far removed from what most "real Americans" hold dear.
Moore and Rogen quickly walked back their comments, but it was too late. Fox News, which often uses Moore as a symbol of the scabrous left, was quick to slither onto the narrative, with Sean Hannity interviewing several members of the military in riposte.
Here’s the tape:
Remarkably, retired US Army Ranger Sean Parnell said it’s “highly ironic that a guy like Michael Moore uses the freedom that he’s been graciously gifted by the American soldiers… to then turnaround and blame the American militaries for all the problem of the world.”
Needless to say, Hannity did not follow up asking how an illegal invasion and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis extended anyone's freedom.
Moore later said his tweet had nothing to do with Eastwood's film.
"If they wanted to know my opinion of 'American Sniper' (and I have one), why not ask me?" Moore wrote on Facebook, before providing a short review:
Awesome performance from Bradley Cooper. One of the best of the year. Great editing. Costumes, hair, makeup superb!
Oh ... and too bad Clint gets Vietnam and Iraq confused in his storytelling. And that he has his characters calling Iraqis "savages" throughout the film. But there is also anti-war sentiment expressed in the movie. And there's a touching ending as the main character is remembered after being gunned down by a fellow American vet with PTSD who was given a gun at a gun range back home in Texas -- and then used it to kill the man who called himself the 'America [sic] Sniper'.
Still, others rallied around the film with Rob Lowe and even “pinko” Jane Fonda offering encouragement.
He's kidding, right?— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) January 19, 2015
Just saw "American Sniper" Powerful. Another view of "Coming Home." Bradley Cooper sensational. Bravo Clint Eastwood. http://t.co/l94zY5Gh8Q— Jane Seymour Fonda (@Janefonda) December 21, 2014
Having survived Iraq, Kyle was killed at a shooting range in Texas by Eddie Ray Routh, another veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD.
Fortunately, Bradley Cooper, who stars alongside Sienna Miller in the film, offered some perspective on the movie's supposed jingoistic tone.
"I can’t control how people are gonna use this movie as a tool, or what they pick and choose whatever they want," he told the Daily Beast.
"But it would be short-changing, I think. If it’s not this movie, I hope to God another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets. It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even… It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.”