Why Didn't Liberals Embrace 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot'?
I don't know what made me decide to take a chance the other day on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a movie released last year and now available on Netflix. I've had it up to here with anti-American, military-bashing movies about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I had no reason to believe that this one, about an American network news correspondent who spends a couple of years based in Kabul, would be any less PC or preachy than Redacted, Syriana, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, Stop-Loss, Grace Is Gone, Green Zone, or a dozen others. (I liked The Hurt Locker and American Sniper, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which flopped last year when it was released in cinemas, definitely didn't look like it was in the same class as those pictures.)
But I gave the movie a chance anyway, deciding to have it on while I was futzing around the apartment. I was pleasantly surprised almost immediately. Tina Fey, playing a longtime newsroom writer with zero on-camera, war-zone, or foreign-correspondent experience (the movie is based on a memoir by Kim Barker, then of the Chicago Tribune, now of the New York Times), arrives in Kabul only to be greeted at the airport by a hijab-clad local woman who barks at her: “Cover your hair, shameless whore!” That line was a good sign – this was one movie, apparently, that wasn't going to back off from gags at the expense of Islamic culture. After Fey is driven to the house where she'll live with a bunch of reporters for other Western media organizations, one of those reporters – a stunning Britain blonde – tells her that while she (Fey) is a “six or seven” in New York, she's almost a ten in Kabul. Another good sign – this movie's not too PC to make jokes based on the premise (offensive in some quarters nowadays) that some women are more attractive than others.
It got even better. Seeing a bunch of women in blue burkas, Fey calls them “IKEA bags.” She gives her translator a copy of Oprah's magazine, O, so he can get some idea of how women think. Visiting a village on a Marines embed, she's irked that the male interpreters aren't allowed to talk to the local, burka-wearing women. In the same village, where a well installed by the Marines has been repeatedly destroyed, presumably by the Taliban, she's taken aside by the village women, who, removing their burkas, explain to her that they're the ones who keep destroying the well, because walking down to the river to get water is the closest they ever get to being free.
I was stunned. Was this really a Hollywood movie?
There was more. Interviewing an Afghan official, Fey addresses the continuation under the Karzai government of Taliban-style “vice and virtue” policing and the retention of sharia law in Kandahar. Preparing to visit Kandahar, Fey quips about the burka she's obliged to wear there: “It's so pretty I don't even want to vote.” Her Afghan bodyguard tells her: “Now you are in the blue prison.” In Kandahar, she visits a girls' school firebombed by the Taliban. There's graffiti on the wall. “What does it say?” she asks. The answer: No education for women.