The Hurt Locker: The Empire’s Best?

Aaron Bady at The Valve calls 2010 Academy Award winning movie for best picture, The Hurt Locker, “a cinema of truthiness,” of a kind.

In my view, the main truthiness (truthiness being a sort of refined Orwellianism) is that “The Hurt Locker” is a biased cinema of retail violence, rather than an illuminating cinema of wholesale (and retail) violence – which the owners don’t allow to be portrayed for the masses.

The Cindy Sheehan Story, if done well as movie, incorporating Dahr Jamail type reporting, would be a poly-subjective/objective cinema of wholesale violence (also retail).

It would be a war (or rather conquest and resistance) story on a large scale, instead of being reductively confined to a warrior/occupier story.

Imagine retitling “The Hurt Locker” as “The Travails of the Conquistadors.” Or call it, symbolically, “The Good Russians in Afghanistan.”

“The Hurt Locker”? Orwellian dreams. A whole cinema of it. Best Picture! By the logic of reduction – possibly so. By the logic of empire – definitely. Political? Sure. Pernicious? Sure. Well wrought? Could be. One can admire what slaves make, whether it’s a good apple, or excitement in art, while despising what they are…enslaved, tools of empire; and/or, in the case of many soldiers (and occupying armies), mercenaries essentially, and lethal indentured servants.

And of course there is always the question of how admirable is what they make. The conquistadors suffered, and suffer today too. It’s the picture of the year, or the era. The excitement and the sufferings of the conquistadors are henceforth to be known as Kathryn Bigelow films? What an honor.

And The Cindy Sheehan Story?

Or what about An Iraqi Lament?

Picture of the never? Novel of the nowhere? Imagination unmappable? Unmapped? Or “…thoroughly forgotten, ignored, and under-articulated…” here, as elsewhere.

“…the representational conundrum that Kathryn Bigelow’s film is stuck in…” is a conundrum of genre and content.

“…the Iraq war…reality is a thing for which narrative is insufficient” in expression when expressed as a contemporary Western, or Spaghetti Western, or Knight-Errant tale – as The Hurt Locker is. This film that is a kind of Die Hard In Iraq! is set up to really show virtually nothing about what dying hard in Iraq today actually means. Die Hard in Baghdad, the enemy mechanized. In fact, the genre and content are a set up to show the opposite of what dying hard in Iraq today most essentially means. As comes natural to a conquistador culture. Picture of the year!

After millennia, is the endless reveling in the martial the best we can do in art? What would we think of a Russian “Hurt Locker” during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan? Wow, those Russian soldiers sure do rock and roll! And the important conundrum there would be what?

“Missing” and “Romero” – these are vital, high impact movies of “war,” that is of conquest and resistance. No academy awards though. And not much academic appreciation either. And I can think of such novels too. Not much conundrum there. Just some great and vital art. Buried like IEDs, I guess, in the paths of establishment scholars’ and critics’ careers, in favor of star shine and star drek. It makes sense to critique the star works of art because they are so visible, and to do so first and foremost at the most fundamental levels; it also makes sense to critique the invisible works of art that are far more vital, to render visible the vital invisible. Either or both done thoroughly can cost matriculation and tenure though, which is why it is so seldom seen in certain circles.

(What a novel that would make! and has partly been made in the great second novel by Miles Franklin, The End of My Career, 45 years delayed in publishing and apparently out of print in the US, though available used and in full online at Australia Gutenberg under its original, better title, My Career Goes Bung.)

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