From "American Sniper" to ... "Triumph of the Will"?


''American Sniper'' is a movie for those who enjoy feeling protected and safely individuated—disconnected from other people—rather than for those eager to lose themselves into a brotherhood. Chris Kyle is a sniper—his organs and privates are always covered as he lies on the ground to ''snipe.'' He becomes a famous sniper—his fellow troops don't see him so much as just one of them as a hero protector who guarantees them victory. His mission is not the same as everyone else's, as much as he might pretend that it is: while the rest of the troops take out the ordinaries, he is bound to face off against the great devil Mustafa, who picks off vulnerable soldiers like a death vulture pounced direct from the sky. He can personally handle some adulation—one soldier who hails him repeatedly as ''the hero'' before the rest of the troops, is dealt with with a plate of flung food, humbling the alert state of newly-drawn attention with the drowsiness of the narratively known—but when other's well-meant appreciation means him feeling requited to receiving and accepting, to him becoming a passive receptacle to other's needs, PTSD lets him off the hook by making background noise suddenly remind of traumatic previous war encounters, and he's only half there to receive anything. His wife has never had the advantage of him. He approached her after attending her shooting down the approach of another, and his familiarity with her technique means he's able to buttress whatever riposte she has left in her. Thereafter he's involved in a war they both believe in, so something along the lines of the devastating attack James Wolcott levied against those who diminished war-serving Salinger in favour of Lena Dunham, is always at the ready, if need be.

But this is Eastwood when he's still pro-growth. He'll do a film like ''Gran Torino,'' which suggests that in becoming accustomed to Korean neighbours, the curmudgeon main protagonist isn't so much adjusting to the new as keeping fidelity with familiar values—now housed in physically different people—but which overall feels in favour of adaptation and change. He'll do a film like ''Jersey Boys,'' which lands us back in the conservative 1950s, but which features a flamboyant gay producer who's portrayed favourably—whip-smart, innovative, self-interested but also overall a good friend. And he'll do ''American Sniper,'' which does lend support to the liberal position that the government needs to fund therapy for war-afflicted troops. When he tilts the other way—and he will—he'll start doing films more like ''Triumph of the Will,'' where there will be nothing more gleefully forsaken than one's individuality, and where the main protagonist will gleefully catch any shared emotion you might want to intermingle with him so you’re all that much more ''one.'' 

This change will occur because anyone who needed to protect his own growth with defensive strategies, came out of a early matrix that was smothering. Such a matrix was also claiming ... and in abandoning it one felt upon withdrawal its massive disapproval, its accusation that you are a bad boy/girl who deliberately abandoned a wholly selfless, endlessly generous and provisioning source for flippant and narcissistic—i.e. entirely selfish—reasons. One cannot handle feeling abandoned, unworthy of one's mother's—i.e. the ''mountain'' ground within the early matrix—love forever ... accumulating before you is how apocalyptic this first felt to you when you experienced it as an infant, and it eventually drowns whatever positive self-evaluation you've mustered for yourself in your individuated adult life. So off is shuck your distinctiveness, and you merge within a body masochistically as but added cells to a corpulent grand madame. You become like Germans when they in the millions forsook their individuated, growing Weimar selves—something wondrous but totally new and heartily anxiety-provoking—and lost themselves into the provincial stupidity of the ''volk.'' 

One of the interesting things that will happen is how the idea of the sheepdog, the protector—a recurrent idea in Eastwood's films—will change. In ''American Sniper'' the idea was introduced not just to explain the source of Kyle's behavioural inclinations but to add another empowered patriarch into a scene—Kyle’s dad instructed him to be a sheepdog. An empowered patriarch felt by Eastwood to add a barrier that could succeed against any giant, bloated, maternal sea-monster's efforts to reach out of the swamp and yank poor Kyle/Eastwood back into a digesting stew. Those with any trepidation, those who are frail, won't be seen as worthy of being guarded—as they are to some extent in this film, perhaps most especially with the marines, who didn't receive the training the Seals did ... who just six months before were civilians. They'll be seen as adding nothing to the prowess of the group, as being vile for being useless, and the protector's role will be to protect the vitality of the group and expunge them—that is, in a sense, to kill the sheep. 

They'll be portrayed a bit like Kyle's younger brother, whom Kyle is delighted with and proud to see enlisted but whom the film shows as a pale shadow to Kyle, and who's weak soul couldn't bear the tarnish that a single tour would incur upon it. They'll seem more like Mark Lee, who dies shortly after questioning the wisdom of the war and the virtue of warrior persistence, but that much more as a result of their being in truth aliens that should have been expunged from the brave collective effort of war that much earlier. They'll seem a bit more like the damaged vet who killed Chris Kyle, whom his wife espied as a dark demon in vet-clothing as soon as she spotted him, but who was clouded from acting to save her glorious husband by the credibility of the idea of keeping faith with the weak—a ''foul'' concept "now" revealed as meaning that such a thing as the greatest warrior in your history, would be left to be downed by a fart of a man.

Eastwood will be vilifying the weak not just within the group, but outside it. Within, the weak saps the strength of the group, and is hated for that reason; outside, the weak and vulnerable are guilty of representing what you mostly were when you felt targeted within the maternal matrix, and are therefore targeted because you’re now completely in mind to keep your mother unblemished in her holiness. So in future films ''enemy'' children that are being targeted by hero-snipers won't be targeted with trepidation, but shot in the manner of how Kyle in real life actually shot them—totally self-righteously: down goes another little savage! … serve up another! And since all villainy must be outside the group, all the negative aspects of your mother must be projected there as well. This means that in future films when woman come into view needing to be shot for their carrying bombs, we won't be meant to think of them as tools of the men who commanded them—as we are to a significant extent in this film— but as issuing forth oblivion from out of their own selves. It'll mean that the exotic persian Orientalism won't be found in the "beautiful" Mustafa, the ''sheepdog'' sniper on the side of the terrorists, but in the ''queen'' at the centre of the hive—''the butcher''—''herself,'' who'll be made to possess traits that identity ''her'' as our split-off villainous mother. 

''She'' won't be made to carry a purse, necessarily, but ''she’ll'' surely be made to lurch over a doomed child in a way that can't help but remind of a witch adding salt to the bare delicious exposed flesh of the helpless child. 

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