Arab Reviews Netflix’s “Purple Hearts”
Netflix’s latest hit “Purple Hearts”: A racist movie or a simple, fun -enemies to lovers- romance?
Netflix’s latest hit has caused quite the controversy. While some are praising it for executing the famous “Enemies to Lovers” trope just right, others are calling the movie out for its blatant racism as well as for its glorification of the military propaganda.
All these heated discussions are mainly led by regular folks on Twitter and other social media platforms, you’re either obsessed with the film or you simply hate it and feel disgust upon seeing any post gushing about it. There’s absolutely no in between.
But, no matter the camp you belong to, even if you argue that you’ve enjoyed the “cute” romance, or that you liked the music (because the lead female is an upcoming singer/songwriter); you cannot possibly ignore the problematic things portrayed in it. One of which is indeed, racism.
This might confuse a handful of you. After all, whenever someone, or in this case something, is labeled “racist”, it is almost a rarity for well-known figures to keep their mouths shut. They’re always on the go where racism is concerned, sharpening their claws, ready to demand immediate cancellation of whatever is deemed as such. So why are we missing similar reactions concerning this film?
The answer lies in the identity of the minority being targeted; Arabs. Nobody really cares about those, not that much anyways, at least not as much as their other fellow marginalised communities. Because the truth is, even victims are categorised hierarchically, and at the bottom of that pyramid, you’ll find Arabs, alongside none other than (you’ve probably guessed it right); Muslims. And yes, those are two different things.
So, a quick recap of the plot. The female lead (Cassie) suffers from diabetes. Unfortunately, her insurance can’t cover the cost of her medication highlighting the monstrous thing that is the American Healthcare System, and we meet her as she struggles between different gigs trying to accumulate enough money to literally survive, and to not get herself thrown into the streets if her rent isn’t paid.
She comes up with this brilliant idea to marry a marine (Luke), whom she despises for he represents and is the embodiment of everything she stands against, in order to ensure that her medical bills are covered. Because the guy also needs the money to pay off a debt, he agrees to this proposition; a mere few weeks before his first deployment to Iraq. Thus, entering a fraudulent marriage that could very much land the couple in jail, if caught of course. Oh, and spoiler alert, the two end up falling in love.
The acting felt a bit over the top at times, the songs the lead produces every other scene were regular, mediocre tones, none are going to linger with you after you finish watching, but her voice is pretty nice to listen to.
Plot wise, many will be taken aback by the incredibly swift and sudden change of heart Cassie showcases. One minute, she loathes the government and everything it stands for, the next she’s turned into a pro-military chick performing a new self-written hit about the troops.
While some will argue that she is the literal representation of how numerous so-called activists are, in fact, virtue signalling woke actors whose stances stem from a need to look and sound righteous rather than an actual desire to contribute to the betterment of any because they claim to support. They memorize liberal slangs found on social media and spit them out every now and then to remind others of their supposed superiority.
Others will have a far simpler, or perhaps a far more complicated explanation that’s condensed to single syllable word: Love.
But the core of the piece is meant to discuss the racism depicted in the film, specifically from the point of view of a member of the community targeted. Before doing so however, and in order to successfully provide a credible analysis, some may call it a critique, another variable ought to be tackled.
- The Military:
Let’s cover the first part of this equation; the military. So many liberals are hating on this movie for “romanticising” military veterans
“How could she fall in love with a killer?”
“You’re in love with pro-gun, pro-war guy? What’s wrong with you?”
“Stop romanticising this murderer!!!”
These are some of the most yelled out opinions on the internet, but I, an actual Arab (who’d like to inform you that the way the word was so wrongly pronounced by that racist toast-raising dude was almost as disgusting as the statement he made) have sort of a different view on this.
I truly think that a significant portion of US soldiers are wrongly brought up believing their deployment to countries like Iraq was and still is about protecting their land from foreign extremists, and it is also meant to serve the best interest of the native people by protecting them from their oppressive regimes. The male lead says to his fake, very liberal, wife that its easy for her to be a feminist, pointing to how Iraqi women are deprived the luxury.
The ignorance of this statement is truly jaw-dropping. The “White Savor” complex is at full display as this scene plays out and it’ll be discussed later in the piece. But I think that many soldiers truly believe that’s what the US is all about, spreading democracy to those less fortunate.
Those in charge are the true villains of the story in my opinion, utilizing men and women’s love for their country to trick them into giving up their lives way too soon, and in the process; many unwillingly help in wrecking entire nations.
This point of view is unlikely to find any kind of support, but I believe it holds, at least, some truth within it. The movie depicts a black 20-year-old-kid proudly joining the military, only to have him killed once deployed to Iraq. And similar real life stories do in fact exist. Were these 20-something kids vicious, blood-thirsty, war mongering criminals, probably not! But that title would fit their leaders quite perfectly.
I hope it is understood that this is by no means a defence of the disgusting and unmatchable evils the US military has brought on so many innocent people across the globe. It is only an observation on how a lot of poorly educated folks regarding what makes a true patriot are being used as pawns to fulfil the greedy desires of their superiors.
2. The Racism:
Now we arrive to the second and arguably the most important part, the racism. It all began with one of the marines raising a toast, the eve of their deployment to Iraq yelling
“ This one is to life, love, and hunting down some goddamn Arabs”.
The protagonist, the liberal “fake-wife”, stands up for him and fails rather miserably in her attempt to lecture him as he screams back at her;
“What do you want us to go do? Teach them pronouns?”
A proper answer would’ve been:
“How about not going there at all?! How about finding a way to leave the country we entered illegally and let those poor souls just be”?
Isn’t it insane how one country can march into another during broad daylight, completely destroy everything that comes its way, somehow succeeding to convince millions of people across the world that it is within its realm of rights to do so! The Iraq invasion affirms how the powerful always manage to avoid any type of ramifications for their horrendous actions, they could go on preying on the weak for decades and no one bats an eye.
I know most Americans are only used to Iraq as the wreck they themselves had turned it into, but this country, once a cradle to numerous ancient civilizations, was simply beautiful before they reduced it to ashes. And it is infuriating to have some argue that is was in the best interest of Iraqis to have a group of foreigners blow their nation to dust.
The US invasion led to the loss of so many lives. Not only did many Iraqi get murdered, kids were orphaned, wives were widowed and many families were left stranded on the shores of foreign countries, begging for access only to fail at building a true home once allowed in. Because unlike those wishing to immigrate, refugees were forced out of their homeland.
Netflix was setting its lead to deliver some liberal counterpoint by having that guy scream those heinous words “Let’s hunt down some Arabs”, but the only thing that statement succeeding in doing was sending chills down my spine while watching, and I can’t even begin to image what would Iraqis feel seeing that having actually had their fathers, brothers, husbands and kids hunted down.
Adding hurtful lines, not to actually enrich the story in any sort of way, but for the mere purpose of having your protagonist seem like this cool, accepting leftie, shows how little regard you actually have for the minority you’re claiming to defend.
Another racist as well as absolutely ignorant scene, one that was briefly mentioned at the beginning of this piece, was when the male lead talked about how easy it was for his new fake bride to wave her feminism flag whereas her Iraqi female counterparts wouldn’t even dream of that, later insinuating that him and his marine buddies are heading east to save them.
Are Arab nations great on the equality front? Surprising to many, some of them actually are. Others, are still suffering from the ancient rule that is the patriarchy, and that’s a known fact.
However, suggesting that Iraqi women would be better having total strangers invade their land, kill and torture their families whilst witnessing their whole country get blown into ruins is beyond absurd.
Women suffer most when residing in areas of conflict. You can’t create a literal warzone, then claim to be a savor for the women and little girls stuck there. Every available stat confirms that harassment and rape skyrocket immensely under these conditions.
All of that being said, it is easy to comprehend the admiration so many are directing towards the film. Two quite good looking leads, some emotional music, and a timeless loved plot “enemies to lovers” can succeed in swinging in some supporters. And though I have my issues with film, I can’t say I hated every minute of it, and I believe that it could’ve garnered more success had they dealt with certain aspects more properly.
The progressive liberal and the conservative marine falling in love could’ve actually succeeded in reminding people that regardless of the many differences we might have, at the end of the day most of us are decent humans who are trying their best while wishing to fall in love and be loved. The movie could’ve used some much needed character development to make it worthwhile.
Cassie would’ve benefited from a wakeup call showing her that dropping virtuous slang in the middle of every other conversation isn’t really helping any woman out there, herself included. The feminist movement wouldn’t have enjoyed much success had its leaders adopted Cassie’s approach.
As for Luke, his character alongside his other fellow deployed marines, could’ve done so much learning once they arrived in Iraq. They could’ve came to the conclusion that loving one’s country also means recognizing its flaws, and the invasion of Iraq is arguably one of the biggest mistakes the US has ever committed. Those who called and supported the move will forever have their hands stained with the blood of the innocent.
The two lovers could’ve grown closer by recognizing the shortcomings found in each of the polar opposite stances they hold, before working on ameliorating themselves by keeping whatever good beliefs and ideals they have, and abandoning the falsities. They both had so much learning to do, and it would’ve been nice to see them actually do it.
These simple changes would’ve made for a far more compelling, much more logical, and definitely a less racist tale.