Sunday, April 21, 2024

#112 / Civil War: A Nihilistic Wish Fulfillment?


There is now a movie out that portrays what a full-scale "Civil War" in the United States of America might look like. "Civil War," in fact, is the title of the film. Click below to view one of the official trailers: 

Click this link for a rather lengthy film review, presented by way of a fourteen-minute video. 

The New Yorker has published a movie review (click right here), and so has The New York Times (here's the link to click for that one). Joe Mathews has devoted one of his columns to the film, as well. The paywalls maintained by most online publications may or may not let you slip by and actually read what these commentators have to say about the film. The same caution applies to the review published by The Wall Street Journal

If you would like to give that review a try, and find out what The Wall Street Journal has to say about this movie, you can click the title link, below. Who knows? Maybe The Journal's paywall will let you read its article. The Journal's article is titled, "Carnage Without Cause," and just in case The Journal's paywall stands firm against non-subscribers, which is a distinct possibility, here is a taste of what Kyle Smith's film review in The Journal tells us about the movie: 

This supposed cautionary tale isn’t really about American divides at all. It’s about the psychology of journalists, specifically the transnational band of roving war reporters and photographers who chase human misery from one gory corner of the globe to the next. Kirsten Dunst as Lee, a renowned photographer, and Wagner Moura as her longtime partner, Joel, represent two types. Hollow, blank-eyed and so inured to slaughter that she practically has bark for skin, Lee thinks of her job in terms of grim duty. She witnesses humanity at its worst, presents its harsh truths to the world, and lets others decide what to do. Joel, though, is in it for the thrill of carnage—“What a rush!” he says after one gruesome firefight. 
For a long and dangerous drive across a landscape choked with burned-out cars and mangled corpses, the two bring along a wily old print reporter, Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), plus a 23-year-old newbie, Jessie (Cailee Spaeny of “Priscilla”), who worships the flinty Lee and is eager to get some tips to launch her own career. The journalists embed themselves in firefights, observe two men being casually tortured in a car wash, engage in adrenaline-junkie stunts, stop in a town untouched by war to try on clothes, pause to watch a sniper attack, and meet a sinister combatant (Jesse Plemons) who is filling a mass grave with scores of bodies. In a sickening climax, tanks and helicopters from the secessionist movement calling itself the Western Front tear up the National Mall and assault the White House. Mr. Garland appears to have spent most of his $50 million budget here, on an extended act of political torture porn for those who might be tickled to see the Lincoln Memorial getting strafed (though he cuts away just as the structure seems about to collapse into rubble). 
Mr. Garland’s America isn’t merely polarized to the point of armed conflict but an actual failed state, like Libya or Afghanistan, in which any number of armed factions play endlessly for advantage. That is mindless fantasy, not mordant commentary. “Civil War” is superficially silly—Mr. Garland writes himself into a trap in one tense scene and gets out of it with an absurd moment of action-hero gusto that is, as presented, not possible—but it’s also deeply silly. It’s a statement movie that contains no insights at all (emphasis added).

Tyler Cowen, who is the Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and also Director of the Mercatus Center, is a prolific blogger, and he has a more positive view of the film. At least, that is how I read his commentary. I am thinking, though, not having actually seen the movie as yet, that The Journal's evaluation is likely to be more persuasive to me. The Journal calls the movie "political torture porn" and "nihilistic wish fulfillment."

I am particularly concerned about that last description - and about its possible applicability. I do think that a significant number of people in the United States have simply given up on our government, and on our "system of government," with some believing that almost anything would be better than what we have now. It is rather difficult to find those who fervently believe that our system of "self-government" is a truly great, and wonderful, and worthwhile achievement. It is ever harder to find assent when suggesting that our nation, from the proclamations first made in The Declaration of Independence, which were then incorporated into the specifics spelled out in our Constitution, is as wonderful as I, myself, believe it is.

As I have just revealed, I am still a "believer." Despite all the horrors in which the United States has been involved - right from the beginning, and even before that - there has been, and I am convinced there still is, something "exceptional" - and I mean exceptionally good - about this nation and its history. Regular followers of my blog postings know my pitch. Read Hannah Arendt!

But slavery, the denigration of women, the destruction of the natural environment, the slaughter of native peoples, the wars of conquest, and the capitulation of democracy to the reign of capital and the oligarchs,  all these are real things - and that is only a "partial list." Some of these things, make no mistake, truly are horrors (and horrors not yet ended). For some, the truth of the "horrors" present themselves as more "real" than any positive view of the nation and its government could ever be - with any such "positive view" being classified as nothing more than a fanciful excursion into an undeserved patriotism. 

Any "believers" who don't understand what I am talking about might want to read The New York Times' book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. That book should help the reader gain some insight into how a nihilistic view of this nation and its history seems to be well-founded on fact. For those with a nihilistic view, a "Civil War," like the one portrayed in this recent film, might seem quite attractive - picturing it, as the film apparently does, as a condign and well-merited judgment against our national failures. 

But, here is my thought: We do not need another Civil War. 

We need, in fact, the very opposite, a Civil "Coming Together." We need, once again, to consider ourselves "One Nation, Under God." 

ONE nation, I'm saying, amidst all our diversity, is what we need to insist upon, and putting an emphasis on that "civility" idea would be a good idea, indeed.

I wouldn't want this new movie about "Civil War" to give anyone the wrong idea. I am just a little bit worried that it might.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!