Friday, February 19, 2010

'The Hurt Locker' is RAAACIST!!

I promised to update a bit on "The Hurt Locker." I've posted a couple of times on the movie, although I did not write a review. I need to see it again to be able to write something fresh. I can tell you though, it's a great flick, and this was nowhere near my reaction:

I would argue that the film is certainly racist/orientalist in the way in which the Iraqi population is portrayed. Iraqis are depicted as either villainous or as an undifferentiated mass of passive spectators and victims. There are no images of Iraqi women which do not depict them either wailing or otherwise "hysterical". The English speaking Iraqi men, all of whom have bit parts, are completely emasculated. The American soldiers are generally depicted as brave (if insanely reckless in a cowboy fashion) and highly competent.

The one chance that the writer and director had to stage a dialog between the protagonist and an Iraqi professor is completely squandered as the professor's "hysterical" wife throws the protagonist-intruder out of her home. Perhaps I should be thankful that the writer and director did not choose to try to speak for "the other."

There is the requisite paternal engagement with an Iraqi child. However, the child apparently is indistinguishable to the protagonist from all of the other masses of poor Iraqi children who chase and throw rocks at military vehicles.

The film may not be quite as aggressively racist as "Blackhawk Down," "300," or "Zulu," the defining films in terms of racist war genre, but it is certainly a contender. There are thankfully no scenes in which a brown or black horde attacks an outnumbered group of mainly white heroes. In terms of the anti-Arab content, the film is not as bad as "True Lies" or any of the worst Hollywood films in the anti-semitic/anti-Arab genre, mainly because it does not really engage "the other" at all... so none of the more complex racist tropes are brought forth. Nevertheless, the film does continue the long tradition documented in Reel Bad Arabs.
This is such a twisted take on the film that even the commenters there (and this is an leftist academic blog) take big issue.

6 comments:

Norm said...

Zulu is not a racist movie. Unfortunately I am old enough to say that I got to watch Zulu on the big screen many, many years ago on a rainy Saturday afternoon with my neighborhood buddies in the Bronx. Walking into the theater we had no idea what the movie was about. Zulu, on the big screen was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences in my life. We were absolutely frozen in our seats for the entire length of the film. The natives were portrayed as intelligent, determined and brave. We left the cinema with nothing but admiration for the Zulu and a different view towards South Africa and its racial policies than we had before.
It put "Cry The Beloved Country", which we all had read a new perspective. I never felt Zulu to be racist.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

So what is he going to say about 'From Paris With Love'?

Viking said...

Zulu was/is a fantastic movie. If it was good enough for Chief Buthulezi to be a part of, then it's good enough for me. Buthulezi remains one of Africa's greatest living leaders.

RickS said...

I agree Norm. Zulu isn't racist at all. It is truly a great movie. The cockney Michael Caine playing an aristocratic officer is priceless. And I love the scene where the Welsh Regiment soldiers break into "Men of Harlech" in response to the Zulu battle songs. I would also recommend the movie ""Zulu Dawn." Not quite as good as "Zulu," but it does do a quite adequate job of depicting the Battle of Isandlwana, which immediately preceded the Roarke's Drift battle of "Zulu."

Rusty Walker said...

Good God!!!
We can't even enjoy a good decent, current American GI movie without liberal erroneous-radar-detection about how Iraqis might be depicted as "emasculated?" The focus was on U.S. troops trying to get a job done. Geez! It is refreshingly absent of any overt or clear political message - just following the life of one young soldier. Our men in uniform aren’t perfect, bravery comes in different forms. This movie shows some great hard-won camaraderie and some lost between the men. Even fighting on the same side unfortunately we still may differ in our opinions.
Excellent movie.

Rusty Walker said...
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