by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I've been reading the posts about "The Hurt Locker" and various service members' response to the film. Trying to decide whether the movie is an accurate portrayal of life in Iraq is a fruitless task, as that assumes there is a singular experience among combat soldiers. Something tells me a Marine in Fallujah has a totally different perspective on the war than an MP in the Green Zone or a fighter pilot or a bomb diffuser in Baghdad.

I can make a similar point with an experience from my own life.

When I was in 11th grade, my English class was assigned a large project on the Vietnam War. We were to discuss the effects of the war in the context on multiple areas of American culture: music, television, literature, news media, etc. One part of the assignment was to interview a Vietnam vet. We were of the age that most of us had little trouble finding a father, uncle or neighbor who served in Vietnam.

We were allowed to take the interviews in any direction we wanted, but everyone had a list of certain questions they had to ask (a la the end of "Inside the Actors Studio"). One of questions asked which movies they thought offered the most realistic portrayal of the war and, conversely, which movie they thought was the most unrealistic. Far and away the leader in bothcategories when the votes for all interviewees were tabulated was  "Platoon." My father, who was on the front lines during the venture into Cambodia, connected with the insanity, terror and futility portrayed in "Platoon." However, someone in another combat situation could just has easily thought is was inaccurate compared to their experience.

The big point here: It's F-ing stupid to try and determine whether a single film has successfully portrayed the war through the eyes of all who served. There is no universal narrative for combat soldiers, and holding a film to that standard demands the impossible (and would probably make for a crappy movie anyway).

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