Right on Target

| illustration by Charles Marsh |

I finally got to see American Sniper, the movie Clint Eastwood made based on the book by Chris Kyle, who was the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Kyle was a Navy Seal and actually lived near Fort Worth in Midlothian. I thought the movie was great, but something else really caught my attention. It was the first time in more than 30 years I'd seen a movie theater packed with people middle-aged or older. That was the good news. The bad news was that every 20 seconds, one of them was getting up to go to the bathroom. Made four trips myself.

But this movie has really struck a chord with Middle America, which represents a huge segment of our population that is rarely catered to by Hollywood. That's understandable when you have producers with a juvenile mentality obsessed with attracting a young audience. That was made obvious in all the movie previews we had to suffer through before the main attraction. Each one was either a sequel, a prequel, a remake or based on a comic book. All of them had the same exact computer-generated special effects. So when a well-made movie with actual substance comes along, Hollywood is generally baffled by its success, and a few in that community expressed their resentment of American Sniper with some negative tweets.

One such person was Michael Moore, a documentary filmmaker, who fancies himself as the voice of the common working man. Well, I don't know about that. Although he always dresses like he's waiting for his laundry to dry, he actually has a net worth of about $50 million.

Now most people can't imagine that Michael would ever step out of a buffet line long enough to tweet about anything; however, he managed to post some pretty harsh comments about the movie and Chris Kyle. He called him a coward, which is almost as ludicrous as calling Seth Rogen a comedian, who, by the way, had also posted some ill-chosen words about American Sniper. 

Neither expected what happened next. Social media erupted with outrage. Thousands of people throughout the country, and even a few in Hollywood, voiced their disdain with them. Then both tried to backtrack on what they said, and frankly, that really was pretty cowardly.

So what's made this movie so wildly popular? I think it's because the story is apolitical. Most of the criticism leveled at the film is because it doesn't take a stance against the war in Iraq. But those critics are missing the point. I read a blog by a Marine Special Forces veteran who explained the movie's appeal the best. He said that the war, like the film, was not about hot button issues like weapons of mass destruction, Bush, Cheney or good versus evil. All that mattered was doing everything you could to protect the guys around you. It was about the horror of seeing things the rest of us can only imagine and dealing with that trauma when and if you returned home. The movie captured what these guys really feel and did a tremendous job of conveying that to the general public.

The Marine never once mentioned bravery, because it must have been second nature to guys like him and Chris Kyle. But their courage is what impressed me the most. Real heroes don't focus on becoming heroes. I used to think I was pretty courageous, until that time a spider crawled on my shoe. It was the day I learned to Riverdance.

I really hope producers take note of Clint Eastwood's success and continue to make movies that target an older demographic. And if it's good, we'll always go back to see it a second time. Mainly to catch the parts we missed while standing in line for the bathroom.