The recent debate about whether “American Sniper should be shown on campus has been a fascinating conversation to see unfold, no?
Prefacing this post with the fact that I have never seen American Sniper (a fact that should probably stop me from writing about it), I still thought I would ask any and all of you what your thoughts are about the topic. Like most points of contention in commentary about social issues, I believe the root of the issue is an inability to listen to the concerns of both sides. Listening to the concerns of each party is very different than listening to the arguments of each party. To hear each other’s concerns is to appreciate and realize the context in which the concern is created.
In this instance, I believe, both outcomes harm at least one party involved.
Those who rallied against the showing of American Sniper were concerned with the Islamophobic tendencies of American war propaganda. Though it may not be a conscious decision to alienate Arab and Muslim populations while watching a movie like American Sniper, the overwhelming research about subconscious judgments in film suggest that we are, in fact, heavily influenced by these depictions. In the set of American war movies historically, the protagonist is almost always a handsome, white male and the enemy (since the mid ‘90’s) has been middle-eastern and has been depicted in a barbaric fashion.
More importantly, a majority white campus has once again overruled concerns of safety raised by the Arab and Muslim populations on Michigan’s campus. That, in itself, is concerning.
That is not to say that I believe the movie shouldn’t be shown. In fact, to not show the film would be a marginal threat against free speech. The film is a huge success in American cinema and was a piece of work that did not explicitly put anyone at risk. Those who are against the showing of American Sniper may say that it did put them at risk, due to the nationalistic and racist response found in certain viewers nationally, but that discussion is one that I don’t believe merits discussion. I would simply ask: When is the last time that a movie didn’t catalyze a bigoted response from someone, somewhere?
It’s been sad for me to see the response made by those who are proponents of the American Sniper showing, and though I think their prescription is the best one, it seems to entirely neglect the marginalized and threatened voices on Michigan’s campus.
Does anyone have any thoughts?