The past few weeks have been scary times for Facebook feeds everywhere, which says a lot. Ever since American Sniper came out, caps-lock, paragraph-free debates have raged about the film’s depiction of the Iraq War. But in a recent, and otherwise soft-to-whiffle-ball interview with NPR’s Terri Gross (sorry groupies), Cooper argued that all the controversy misses the story’s real point:
“The fact that it’s inciting a discussion that has nothing to do with vets — and it’s more about the Iraq War and what we did not do to indict those who decide to go to the war — every conversation in those terms is moving farther and farther away from what our soldiers go through, and the fact that 22 vets commit suicide each day . . .The amount of people that come home is so much greater because of medical advancement and … we need to take care of them.”
That sounds great! And sweet. And maybe, slightly ridiculous. While Cooper may have intended to simply raise awareness about veteran’s health issues – and while the film works hard to address them – his feigned ignorance (or actual ignorance?) about the story’s subtext is beguiling. Cooper claims that he didn’t imagine the film would incite such controversy: “War is such an emotional subject, maybe I was a fool to think it wouldn’t.”
American Sniper is set during the Iraq War – and while it may not be at the forefront of the film – Iraq is the landscape of the story and the stage for the hero’s journey. Say what you will about the movie (but please don’t put me on a group email about it, I will not read it), Sniper consciously or unconsciously operates under an ideology. What those politics are is up for debate, but to say they don’t exist, or are a distraction, sounds like wishful thinking from an otherwise nice guy.