prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Zero Dark Thirty Under Attack

Posted by prof e on January 14, 2013

zero-dark-thirty1The Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, is being criticized by some in the Hollywood film community because of its portrayal of “enhanced interrogation”, a euphemism for torture. According to Hollywood veterans, and liberal activists, Ed Asner and Martin Sheen (you may know him as the father of Charlie Sheen), Zero Dark Thirty is not worthy of accolades and honors because it suggests that torture played a role in the elimination of bin Laden.

First a little background. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow who also directed The Hurt Locker, winner of six Academy Awards. Controversy arose early on when the film’s producers and writers were accused of receiving access to classified documents. Opponents of President Obama suspected that the film would be released just before the 2012 elections, with the goal of boosting the President’s reelection efforts. However, the film was not finished in time for the elections and went into wide release this past weekend to critical acclaim. The film has received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and five Golden Globe nominations resulting in a Best Actress win for Jessica Chastain. It also topped the weekend box office taking in approximately $24 million.

In defense of the film’s portrayal of torture, Sony pictures issued a statement saying, “To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate.” However, this movie is a fictional account based on real events…not a documentary. I’m not sure that responsibility and accuracy were as essential as Sony would like us to believe.

In criticizing the film, one Hollywood insider said, “You can’t separate artistry from morality.” While that statement is open to debate, it is interesting to note that moral objections to content found in Hollywood movies has been a battle waged since the turn of the previous century. For most of that time Hollywood’s collective response has been, “we’re artists…don’t impose your values on our creation.” “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” And the always-predictable argument, “It’s only a movie…people can distinguish between reality and what they see on the screen.” Now that Hollywood activists don’t care for the tone of the objectionable content the shoe appears to be on the other foot. They’ll need to tread lightly, lest they appear overly hypocritical as they press their case for moral superiority.

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7 Responses to “Zero Dark Thirty Under Attack”

  1. Michael said

    I haven’t seen this movie, but I might later when it hits ordinary cable channels. I did, however, watch a Charlie Rose episode where he interviewed a couple of non-hollywood types. I can’t remember their names or credentials, only that they were “official” types, if you will. The interview is likely on Youtube. The overall interview was a bit boring, mostly forgettable. I do remember that the two men Charlie spoke with described the film’s depiction of the use of torture/interrogation as a simple fact of the matter, not an indictment or endorsement either way, which to my mind seemed at least objective insofar as such a film could be.

    The key takeaway from the interview (according to the “officials”) for me was that this film was something of an historical “document” as a opposed to being a “documentary” per se, and that the filmmakers were simply doing their best to adhere to journalistic principles, rather than taking a “dramatistic” approach that an unabashedly Liberal director like say Oliver Stone would have. Conversely, the laughable and comic-book Super Hero way in which the producers depicted the the philosophic bent of U.S. Navy SEALs in the recruitment/advertisement movie, Act of Valor, and is the equivalent to the way liberal-leaning Hollywood films, too, brainwash the public into silly romanticisms about this country’s endeavors in one way or another. Act of Valor was like watching Call of Duty Modern Warfare live action-style. And I glare with a cynical/skeptical eye at any piece of material that comes out of the media industry pertaining to the Republic VS Democracy dichotomy of common discourse most people are confused with today. But that’s a separate topic, I suppose.

    Either way, with Zero Dark Thirty, the audience is still left with a piece of deceptive propaganda, as I see it. I happen to be enough of a news media junkie that I can remember mainstream war coverage in the early moments of the Afghanistan incursion which reported Osama Bin Laden’s suspected fleeing across the border into Pakistan after a tremendously successfull bombing raid in the mountains of Afghanistan . Of course, the U.S. military, with the help of complacent/complicit news journalists, buried and side-stepped nuclear Pakistan’s unwitting(?) safe harbor of the defeated Bin Laden, as the larger U.S. agenda to invade Iraq and then potentially Iran in order to solidify the Oil hegemony in the Middle East went forward.

    Osama Bin Laden was always small potatoes, nothing more than a symbol of misplaced fear and now American retribution, which an easily programmable American public can intellectually grasp over rigorous contemplation of the run-up to 9/11 and U.S. foreign policy. So now with this movie, I’m supposed to forget that the corporate news media told me in a whisper that OBL made it to Pakistan years ago. And that the CIA and SEALs engaged in a highly professional and meticulous feat of super sleuthing to find some old man holed up in an unfortified dirt and concrete compound? And it only cost a few trillion.

    Silly rabbits, tricks are for kids.

  2. Shelby Aebischer said

    I think that some people are going to be more offended than others when it comes to this issue. There are a lot of violent and bloody movies out in the world today. There is always going to be somebody offended by something in the media, unfortunately you cannot please everybody. Movies like this in the past were not censored, and admittedly we do have the ability to censor such movies now and take out the violent parts. But would that make the movie as impacting or as good as it is? Kind of like when we spoke of Huckleberry Finn today in class, it just would not be the same. True the details of how the interview was approached may be inappropriate for some people, but it is a person’s choice how he or she is going to respond to the movie. The media and what is shown when it comes to motion pictures has definitely changed from the when media first came out, and there may be more offensive and provocative scenes out there, but the purpose is still the same, to entertain audiences. And no two people are the same, some people will take offense to things more than others, like I said, you cannot please everyone.

  3. Daniel Bays said

    When it all comes down to it is still just a movie and not a true dipiction of the facts. Only the men who were there in real life know the true facts of how everything went down in Afganistan and when it conserns the death of Ben Lodin. There is violence in hundreds of movies and there is no reason to critisize the violence in this movie. Everything about this movie is something you would not take your children to go see. It is meant to entertain Adults not to take your children to a history lesson. If they want to do that they can watch the documentory that was made an shown on TV. War is violent and that is a fact. There is nothing pretty about war and I think that children should know that war is not a good thing but should be a last resort. The torcher scene in the movie is meant to entertain. Maybe it happened maybe it did not but people need to know that it is just a movie and not real life. Unless you have a top secret clearence you would never know the facts of the events that took place. The information about the situation of ben lodens death is always going to be watered down for the public. The real facts will remain locked up in government files. The public doesn not need to know all of the facts that take place in war and in this event but just that the event tok place and the outcome of the event. If the movie makers want to add torcher seans to make things more dramatic, then so be it. It is a movie not the real facts and events. The movie is not even catigorized as a documentory and should be considered entertainment. I can see a problem with other countries thinking that this is Americas view but that is the only problem I see of this movie. I haven’t even seen the movie and that is how I feel.

  4. Edmund Burke once stated that “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” I think it it human nature to choose only to reject the actions others have made on our behave when the true barbarism is replicated in front of our very eyes. Even though the movie is only a depiction of TRUE EVENTS, it is enough of a sample size for American citizens to understand the true power our military has. Sure there is violence in thousands of movies along with the video games our society honors, however in the eyes of the world are upon us now. As Americans we applaud violence however we should be embarrassed of our acclaim on ZERO DARK THIRTY. There is nothing pretty about the events on 9/11, and yes it is a historical event but a historical event should be left in a formal documentary style. Not in a blockbuster atmosphere as grab for big bucks. The fact is the world is now looking at our actions. Citizens now have an understanding of our military is like, something that should be confidential regardless the significance of the event. Osama Bin Laden received his penalty for his crimes. However the public doe not need to know the facts that occur during war. The extent of releasing military secrets and torture tactics, does not make it dramatic. It is sicking. The fact that we acclaim this movie and hold in high regard against our enemies in the Middle East only constrains the relationships even more. This movie hit home for me, and the fact is every minute that I watched it it made me more uncomfortable. This movie impacts thousands of people around the world, both foreign and domestic. I would say it effects them more in a negative way then positive. As I stated Osama Bin Laden paid his dues, and when he did many were at peace. The fact that we ave to re live these actions is the true abuse..

  5. Cristi Meyer said

    I don’t think there would be so much controversy over the movie if parts of it weren’t true. You don’t see people getting offended over other action movies that were based on true events. Movies are really for the form of entertainment, and I do not see why some people have to cause an issue over this fictional but historical based story line. For me, the movie was graphic and I did not care for the torture scenes, but I still thought it was a great movie and I didn’t question if it was true or false because it is only a movie, not a documentary.

  6. Mike Gallardo said

    Of course everyone is going to have thier opinion on the issue, but i believe the movie is just that a movie. It may have some truth to it, it may not. No one really knows but the men and women who were there putting in those hourse and hours of work and research. I see the movie as a ploy, a consperacy even. I still dont think we killed Bin Laden. I believe we captured him or something. I just dont think it was that simple or that easy to just kill him. The movie is a little grusome but thats just fine. I dont have any issure with tourture, at all. The world is cruel and relentless, we have to be too. What is the other side doing. Our enemies are always ploting on the U.S. and us playing by rules when the enemy does not. America is so sheltered and when peices of the truth come out people become scared and humanitarians. where was those feelings when thousands of people were killled in the 9/11 massacure. We were furious then, and now we are critticle of the way the mastemind was found.

  7. Dalton Davis said

    When I first saw that this movie was coming out I had no idea that this movie would have caused this much drama. Zero Dark Thirty is based on true events just like the movie Act of Valor. Movies like these are violent and gruesome and people need to understand that these are based on true events so they are going to see things that they dont like. Movies are a major entertainment factor and they are here to entertain us. We cant get entertained if people are overreacting about a small scene in a movie that was based on true events. I have seen this movie and to me its not a big deal, It was a little disturbing but a lot of movies are also disturbing. If you have a problem with movies that show scenes like the one in Zero Dark Thirty than you shouldnt see movies that are based on true events.

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