Writer Attacks 'Outdated Models of Masculinity' in Films Like 12 Strong
War movies are a staple of the film industry, something they've cranked out for decades and decades. While they tend to be expensive, they also tend to have a good return on investment -- as long as you keep the preaching to a minimum.
However, with the release of the film 12 Strong, liberal self-appointed elite such as The Intercept's Peter Maass are troubled by a portrayal of the bravery of U.S. soldiers. He's even upset by the concept that Americans are the good guys and that Islamic terrorists are humanity's enemy.
"Some of the biggest war movies of the post-9/11 era don’t just show violence in ways that are often gratuitous and occasionally racist. They model a cliched form of masculinity that veers from simplistic to monstrous," Maass writes.
He adds: "That’s when it becomes necessary to say that movies can create or reinforce narratives of history and gender that influence what people think and what they do. Boys and men develop their notions of masculinity from a variety of sources that include the films they watch (the extent to which this is true is, of course, open to debate)."
"The time has come for Hollywood to turn away from war movies that, while satisfying to both a studio’s bottom line and a flag-waving concept of patriotism, perpetuate a model of masculinity that does violence to us all."
The thing is, as the film illustrates, masculinity is not outdated. Not at all. It will never be.
This particular brand of masculinity may well influence boys and men who watch it -- and that's wonderful. It creates a model of behavior that holds up courage in the face of evil as a quality to be honored.
But people like Maass don't understand that. They value war movies that show damaged veterans, or unprincipled troops stealing large sums of gold -- both things Maas explicitly celebrates in his choice of "good" war movies.
He seems to quiver at the idea of the American fighting man actually being good at war, and moral.
Don’t get me wrong, stories about the breadth of the military experience are important, too. We need to understand what some veterans go through in the aftermath of combat, and that some are not honorable. But let’s never pretend that it’s a universal theme among those who served.
But Maass doesn’t grasp that, maybe because he’s never served anything except a guest at a dinner party. Maas continues: “What matters is that well into the second decade of our forever war, the combat movies that populate our multiplexes and our minds are devoted to a martial narrative of men-as-terminators that should have been strangled at its birth a long time ago.”