Artifact Analysis Post (RLG233H1-F)

Artifact Analysis Post: The American Sniper

The movie American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood has made many headlines since its release in January of 2016. The film is based on the 2012 autobiography authored by Chris Kyle, a United States Navy SEAL veteran and a famed sniper. Kyle, often dubbed as the deadliest sniper in U.S history, was known for the impressively high record of kills he carried out during the duration of his four tours served in Iraq. Kyle scored around more than 140 confirmed kills in Iraq (Greenberg, 2015). Kyle’s character was portrayed by Bradley Cooper whom was nominated for an Academy Award because of his remarkable performance as Chris Kyle. Due to American Sniper’s appeal in a post-9/11 world, it was met with huge commercial success and mostly positive and appreciative critical reviews. American Sniper grossed over $547.5 million USD dollars and was nominated for many awards, including the Academy Awards. Despite the overall positive reception of American Sniper, it is quite difficult to overlook the black and white scenarios presented and played out in the film. The film targets possibly one of the most notably sensitive and controversial topics since the beginning of documented history; war. Kyle is portrayed in the film as a dedicated, brave and heroic patriot whom readily devotes his knack for precision and shooting to the United States military. Kyle kills without hesitation and with the sole purpose of keeping the American people safe.

Although the American Sniper portrays a near-perfect image of patriotism and masochistic heroism, it simultaneously offers a distorted, biased and violent perspective of war and the people involved in it. War begins and ends with violence but it is easy to be oblivious to the thousands of lives involved in it. There is so much more to war than meets the eye yet American Sniper offers a purely violent means to war and conveys a strong message of how violence is often the answer. This analysis will further examine the blatant messages and theme of violence the American Sniper conveys in relation to popular culture, and how those messages influence people to rethink their religious values and similarities. The reception and critical overview of the film will also be discussed in regards to supporting above argument.

A Closer Reading

A closer reading will be focused on the scene where Kyle’s father, portrayed by actor Ben Reed, lectures his children Chris and Jeff on how to deal with the world. His words were prompted after young Jeff was bullied and beaten up at school and older brother Chris jumped in to save him. Kyle’s father provides a very bleak black and white portrayal of the world.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators. They use violence to prey on people. They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.” (Kyle, McEwen, DeFelice, 2012)

He divides the world population in three categories; sheep, wolves and the sheepdogs. The sheep being the vulnerable and the prey, the wolves being the predators, and the sheepdogs being the protectors. As Kyle grows up, that analogy stays with him and it is prevalent throughout the course of the film. The American population is shown as the sheep, the Iraqis are the predators and the U.S military, including Kyle, are the sheepdogs, the protectors. The War on Terror is a more than complex case and cannot be easily justified or examined in a black and white perspective. Kyle is taught that there is either a good (white) or bad (black) side to war. As many Americans already view the Arabs as, “…dangerous, barbaric and primitive.” (Ramji, 2003), American Sniper just seemingly followed the norm. All Iraqis were consistently portrayed as savages and inhumane through the film which is a prime example of misrepresentation of a religion with the help of media. The media representation of war or the people fighting on the other side leaves a resounding effect on the youth in America as a typical American child watches 28 hours of television per week (Beresin, 2009). The resulting effect not only misconstrues one’s perception of a religion, whether familiar or not, it also encourages the youth to become inherently dependent on popular culture and the myths and scenarios presented. The sheepdog and wolves’ analogy was also a significant reason as to why that particular scene received critical reception, especially since that ideology was being taught to young Kyle and his brother.

Means of Production

By the end of 2014, American Sniper became the highest grossing American film of the year. The production of the movie began and ended with a budget of $58.8 million USD dollars and following its success, the film earned $337.4 million dollars in the United States combined with $197.3 million dollars worldwide (Guerrasio, 2015). The box office earning soared up to a total of $547.4 million USD dollars (Guerrasio, 2015). The film was based on the autobiography named American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Jason Hall and produced by Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Robert Lorenz, Peter Morgan, and Andrew Lazar. The production companies were composed of Village Roadshow Pictures, Malpaso Pictures, 22nd & Indiana Pictures, and was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The filming of the movie took place in locations across California and Morocco.

Consumption and Reception

The overall reception of American Sniper was an appreciative one. The film drew some critical reviews as well in regards to whether the film was anti-war or pro-war. Many argue that the strong portrayal Arabs as faceless and inhumane savages in the film was a heavy contribution to the fearful atmosphere and behavior towards Muslims in the Western World. The media already does not do much to help cease or reassure its audiences of the reminder that one does not represent an entire group or religions with followings composed of millions of people. Whilst many whom have watched the movie may easily jump to the conclusion of dubbing the movie as a great action film or praise and further glorify Kyle’s character as a sniper whom, without hesitation, takes dozens of lives, including women and children. Whilst other audience members remain enraged over the portrayal of people from countries other than the United States of America, others became more aware of the stress and mental suffering inflicted upon U.S soldiers and how they are silently torn apart by their doings and experiences. The recurring theme of violence being the only answer for the purpose of settling matters is also prevalent throughout the film (Bain-Selbo, 2012, p 83). The audiences are also shown an example of how the families of soldiers are forced to suffer along with the soldiers as well. Whilst simultaneously, it is not easy to ignore the gaping space where one should be sensible enough to think about the families of the civilians killed in wars. American Sniper provides its audiences with an insight on how a talented and celebrated U.S soldier suffers mentally and hos his family suffers with him yet at the same time, nothing is shown about how the families and individuals oon the “other” side of the war are suffering as well. The Iraqis, whom are consistently portrayed as savages and inhumane throughout the film, are clearly the bad people even though they have a story to tell just like the Americans do.

Bibliography

Bain-Selbo, Eric. “On the Sacred Power of Violence in Popular Culture.” In Understanding Religion and Popular Culture: Theories, Products, and Practices. Ed. Terry Ray Clark and Dan W. Clanton, 72–88. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Greenberg, H. R. (2015). “American Sniper”. Psychiatric Times, 32.3, 36.

Kyle, C, McEwen, S DeFelice, J. (2012) American Sniper. United States.

Ramji, Rubina. “Representations of Islam in American News and Film: Becoming the ‘Other’.” In Mediating Religion: Conversations in Media, Religion, and Culture. Ed. Jolyon Mitchell and Sophia Marriage, 65–72. London: T&T Clark, 2003.

Silk, Mark. “Islam and the American News Media post-September 11.” In Mediating Religion: Conversations in Media, Religion, and Culture. Ed. Jolyon Mitchell and Sophia Marriage, 73–79. London: T&T Clark, 2003. (NB. Both articles are included in the single download of Ramji).

Wedlock, C. B. (2016). “Critical Analysis of leadership theory in American Sniper.” Culture, Media & Film, 1–7.

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