Do Judge a Film by its Trailer: A Response to the ‘Patriots Day’ Message

I try my best to avoid movie trailers. On principle, the whole concept is spoiler-central; the trailer is meant to excite the moviegoer with bombastic, awesome images. Incite them to go see this wonderful film! And, structurally, those beats are found at the end of the film (but hey, that’s another article for another day).

When I do watch trailers, it’s because I’m being held hostage at the movie theater with 20 minutes of shitty concepts. The trailer for Patriots Day should have been an eye-roll like the rest. It should have been yet another example of Hollywood’s masturbatory ‘true story’ melodrama obsession.

You’ll catch me dead spending money on this brainwashed patriotism bullshit, but I will say this: the editor of the Patriots Day trailer is very talented. The piece is formulaic, but incredibly effective.

It knows exactly what it’s doing, and it’s terrifying in doing so.

“Overly patriotic movie based in Boston? I know just the guy!”

If you’ve yet to see this garbage trailer, let me save you the agony. Mark Wahlberg plays Yet Another Good Guy bent on stopping evil in light of a horrific tragedy — this one’s flavor is the 2013 Boston bombing (with tactless studio execs once again proving nothing is ‘too soon’ for the box office). Wahlberg’s character is a loving father and husband, revered by his community and his fellow officers. The bombs go off and we follow closely with his confusion and shock. We ask with him, who did this? Why did they do this? Are we Oscar eligible? Finally, Kevin Bacon steps onto the scene in what I presume to be one of the big plot points of the film’s first act and he says that magic word: terrorism.

And we’re off, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m not trying to undermine the actual real-life events. I streamed the news in the middle of my Art History class and I texted all of my Boston friends to make sure they were okay. It was hysterical during this three-day manhunt. I mean, that’s the whole damn point of terrorism.

But the terrorism that I’m talking about, the terrorism that was committed that day, is not the terrorism that the American media and Hollywood is obsessed with. Their brand of terrorism is the kind that is always and forever radicalized and every Muslim on Earth is responsible for it. Their brand of terrorism is destructive and dangerous because of how they skew the truth and set it to inspirational music.

Yes, the real-life Tsarnaev brothers claimed their attack was radicalist (despite investigators finding no strong link between Dzhokhar and jihadist terroristic groups), but this isn’t where the problem lies. In fact, we don’t see much of the brothers in the trailer, perhaps for the same reason we don’t see much of the shark in Jaws.

What we do get is a lengthy interrogation scene. A hijabi woman asks for a lawyer and is immediately shut down. She reminds the police, “I have rights,” which, um, she does. But in a stunningly appalling move for the sake of snappy dialogue, the police fire back, “You ain’t got shit, sweetie.”

What the fuck?

After further research, it’s clear this character is supposed to be Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s ex-fiancee. The real life Russell is American-born and had converted to Islam during her relationship with Tsarnaev. The aggressive scene is justified by this information, but intent is nothing without context.

Think of this movie’s demographic: it’s the policemen, the veterans, the everyday patriots of America. It’s the people who find pride in the heroic defiance of terrorism (and again, I mean the media’s brand of terrorism). Without the knowledge of the hijabi woman being the ex-fiancee, what exactly is this scene saying?

Without context, this is a Muslim-coded woman aggressively being told that her rights don’t matter.

Moments like that are incredibly dangerous. For example, shortly after the premiere of Zero Dark Thirty, the giant cesspool that is Twitter was found to be breeding even more Islamophobia than usual — and jeez, I found that film to be fairly unbiased to the iconic event.

And don’t get me started on the American Sniper screenshots.

If a simple reminder is all the American public needs to rev its engine, imagine what kind of hatred can stir from that intentionally out-of-context interrogation scene.

Hollywood has the power to shape our worldview, but it also has the power to grossly distort it. And while, yes, it seems an overwhelming majority of entertainers lean liberal, as demonstrated ever so gracefully by Meryl Streep the other night, the movie industry also has its fair share of Clint Eastwood and his imaginary chair-Obama.

Patriots Day appears to be a disappointing example of the latter. I mean, for shit’s sake — it’s right there in the title! There are no allusions when it comes to this trailer and what it’s marketing. The story of the Boston bombing is scary and poignant on its own; it doesn’t need an American flag watermarked on its narrative, and it certainly doesn’t need to remind its audience that Muslims are ubiquitously the enemy.

On the bright side, it should come as no surprise to find that the writer and director, Peter Berg, also produced Lone Survivor and… Battleship.

I know people say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think I’ve got this movie pegged.

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