Michelle Obama Defends 'American Sniper' & Wants More Stories About Vets In The Media
Not only did Clint Eastwood's American Sniper break the record for highest grossing war film of all time, barely edging out ahead of Saving Private Ryan, the movie also got an endorsement from the First Lady of the United States. On Friday, Michelle Obama, Bradley Cooper and other stars from the film came together in Washington, DC to launch the new "6 Certified" media initiative from the group "Got Your 6," along with influential partners Warner Bros., National Geographic and the Producers Guild of America.
The mission of "6 Certified" is to increase authenticity and visibility of veterans' stories in movies and television. Michelle Obama also defended American Sniper as an address to the ongoing criticism of the film: I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I've heard firsthand from military families over these past few years." "Got Your 6" is a campaign that will
allow TV shows and films to display an onscreen badge that tells viewers the show they're watching has been certified by the group Got Your 6, which derives its name from military slang for "I've got your back." To be approved, the film or show must cast a veteran, tell a veteran story, have a story written by a veteran or use veterans as resources.
It's an honorable mission to preserve the integrity and authenticity of veterans' stories to increase understanding in the general public of their experiences during and after war. It is also likely to provide a deeper understanding of a first-person perspective of a soldier's life.
But for every avid fan of Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in US military history, there's a detractor criticizing the film of its reverent and idyllic portrait of a Navy SEAL in Iraq. Many have decried the movie for resembling propaganda, not only actors like Seth Rogen, who compared American Sniper to Nazi propaganda films, but veterans as well.
Garett Repenhagen, who also served as a sniper in Iraq, published a personal narrative at Salon today, and urged people to remember that every soldier has an intensely personal and distinct experience in the war. He said of his experience in Iraq and his reaction to the film:
As a sniper I was not usually the victim of a traumatic event, but the perpetrator of violence and death. My actions in combat would have been more acceptable to me if I could cloak myself in the belief that the whole mission was for a greater good. Instead, I watched as the purpose of the mission slowly unraveled...My war was completely different than Chris Kyle’s war. That doesn’t mean his war is wrong, and mine was right. But it does mean that no one experience is definitive.
That might be the most important message to take away from the film; it's not a broad-sweeping, objective portrayal of the war, but just the opposite — a film based on one man's memoir about his service and the physical and emotional struggles he grappled with.
Did Michelle Obama have an obligation to defend the film? Would she have seemed critical of the Iraq war itself had she agreed with any of the criticism? Her praise, though, was careful and balanced—she focused on defending the humanity of the film specifically, delicately avoiding the question on whether or not she believed the film was an accurate portrayal of war. And only those veterans who lived the war can voice their experiences, which is exactly the mission of "6 Certified"—to round out a portrait of the Iraq war with many different perspectives.
Images: Getty (2).