A former Army Ranger and combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan wasn’t having any of it when a liberal journalist complained that war movies glorify a harmful and outdated version of masculinity.
It all started when Peter Maass, senior editor for The Intercept, went after “12 Strong” — a movie about the first Special Forces team sent to Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Maass wrote a column arguing that the movie is one of many war films that “perpetuate a model of masculinity that does violence to us all.”
The Intercept promoted Maass’ piece on its Twitter account, reiterating his main point in the caption of their post.
“Hollywood should turn away from war movies like ’12 Strong’ that send harmful messages about masculinity and violence,” the outlet said.
But retired Army Capt. Sean Parnell, who has been honored with two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart Award for his service in Afghanistan, took issue with that sentiment.
He indicated that American soldiers in Afghanistan weren’t simply pursuing violence with no goal in mind, or fighting for the sake of fighting.
Rather, their service had a purpose — to defend the weak and innocent, and to protect the rights of those who had been marginalized in Afghan society.
“We defended the innocent from the violent predations of our enemy. We were protectors of the weak,” Parnell wrote. “We gave women in Afghanistan the freedom and security to go to school & learn to read.”
He ended with a direct message for Maass and The Intercept — “Shut up.”
In his column, Maass argued that in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal involving disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, it’s time for Hollywood to stop making “problematic” movies that model a “cliched” and “monstrous” form of masculinity.
Specifically, he cited the “pivotal” action scene in “12 Strong,” where the hero — a Green Beret played by Chris Hemsworth — takes out a group of Taliban fighters.
“In the same way that Hemsworth’s assault weapon goes rat-tat-tat and the bad guys fall like bulleted dominoes,” Maass wrote, “the scene itself checks off one born-in-Hollywood cliché after another: of the rugged gunslinger, the warrior in camo, good versus evil, the modern vanquishing the profane, a man at his fullest.”
He suggested that war movies like “American Sniper,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “13 Hours” are also problematic, because while they might make a lot of money and promote a “flag-waving concept of patriotism,” they ultimately have a negative effect on the way boys and men think.
“(W)ell 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,” he explained.
Maass did emphasize that he is not against the war movie genre as whole, but he prefers films that focus on other themes, like PTSD.
Though some people seemed to genuinely like Maas’ column, the liberal writer’s thoughts on what topics war movies should and should not cover didn’t seem to be particularly popular on Twitter.
“12 Strong,” which was released on Jan. 18, has pulled in nearly $30 million so far in domestic ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
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