Eminem versus Iraqi Insurgency


Written by Archie Thomas
03 Wednesday 03rd March 2010

The Hurt Locker’s little guy image is only enhanced by the fact that Hollywood is abuzz with excitement about the prospect of a female director (Kathryn Bigelow) winning that category for the first time ever. And, in the process, getting one over her ex-hubbie (Cameron).
However, The Hurt Locker seems to be lacking the backing of one major American social force; veterans. A recent piece in The Washington Post drew attention to the fact that a growing number of current or ex-army servicemen are none too impressed by The Hurt Locker’s fast-and-loose treatment of the war in Iraq.

“Nine more Oscar nominations than it deserves,” slammed Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, adding “I don’t know why critics love this silly, inaccurate film so much.”

Rieckhoff is no lone voice barking at the moon. Veterans are up in arms about what they consider unforgiveable inaccuracies (such as the fact that the uniforms the soldiers wear were not available at the time the story takes place). But what really cheeses them off (and probably has them hovering fat fingers over triggers) is the behaviour of lead character Sgt. 1st Class William James (Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner). They consider him an irresponsible, unprofessional renegade who endangers his comrades daily. More Rambo than good patriotic soldier.

I suppose the vets have a point. Renner can best be described as a loose cannon. While quite brilliant at disarming bombs, he always does it his way and is less of a team-player than John Terry. He’s the outlaw in the traditional anti-establishment mould. He’ll take a beating over and order any day that’s for sure.

“Films, almost more than anything, will be the way Americans understand our war,” wrote Rieckhoff. “So we feel there is a responsibility to portray our war accurately … when he (James/Renner) puts a hood on like Eminem and starts roving outside the wire, it’s ridiculous.”

But so what! It’s a film – who cares if it’s inaccurate at points if it’s entertaining I hear you say. True, but one shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the vet’s backlash has had on Oscar voter’s twitchy pen-holding fingers (votes are now all in).

Remember, America is still knee-deep in the Iraq shitfight and no-one in Hollywood wants to seen to be celebrated a movie which upsets the troops and has the potential to inspire new (largely stupid) recruits to ape James’ maverick (and downright dangerous) antics when out there 'in the field'.

If The Hurt Locker does bring the pain to Avatar it will be a landmark event for films based on real wars. Traditionally, it has taken at least a decade for filmmakers’ interpretations of real wars to gain Oscar recognition. The Bridge Over the River Kwai triumphed in 1957 – 12 years after the end of WWII – and Platoon won the top prize 13 years after the Yanks departed Vietnam with their collective tails between their legs. 

Either way, we’ll know the outcome this Sunday. I’m still predicting Avatar for best film (in recognition of its game-changing impact on the global film industry) and Bigelow for director.


More Archie here.

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