Exploitation Takes Many Forms

I don’t watch a lot of porn, or a lot of other movies, but stuck in a motel off a highway on the edge of nowhere, it’s either pay-per-view or Meet the Press, and that show crosses a line in offensiveness.

The movie I watched, Lone Survivor, was apparently made by Leni Riefenstahl to tell the story of four Navy SEALs in Afghanistan who, in the process of mowing down about ten million Afghans (“Taliban”), end up with only one SEAL guy surviving. If that spoils the end of the movie for you a) watch Meet the Press. It too has its whole narrative in the title and b) I’m glad it spoils the movie for you because I should be the last person on earth who pays to see it.

But flipping between the porn and Lone Survivor, I realized they are pretty much the same movie.

Both lack context. In porn a woman sits in a room, a man enters and they have sex. We don’t know or care about who they are, why they are there, even what their pretend names are. In Lone, we do know from the credits it is set in Afghanistan (albeit an Afghanistan that looks like New Mexico.) Otherwise, it’s just one set of guys killing another set of guys for our vicarious pleasure. We don’t know who they are (the SEALs are all named Mac, or Murph or Biff anyway), really why they are there except to kill (have sex) and we really don’t care.

A feature of porn seems to be denying the realities of biology and physics. Every thing is bigger than in real life, even to the pneumatic point where no one is even trying to pretend it is real. It obviously is completely fake, but that doesn’t matter because that’s what porn is about.

In Lone, the main character falls off a mountain not once, but three times, bounces down off rocks, lands on his back on rough ground, slams into a tree, only to show up at the bottom with some scratches, shouting “good to go.” One Biff gets shot multiple times, including in the head, and keeps going. The lone survivor dude (and they are all dudes) does not bleed to death or go septic over giant pieces of shrapnel in his leg, and even digs them out with a dirty knife. Oh– the wounds were also rubbed in dirt and dunked in a stream. Guess he got a tetanus shot.

Depending on your point of view, typically one partner in a porn film is really just there as a kind of prop, to support the person(s) you are supposed to want to see. Same in Lone. The literally hundreds of evil dog Taliban have no purpose other than to be slaughtered, often in the super close-ups also favored by porn. Things spurt as bullets enter their bodies, and they move through the movie anonymously like, well, sorry, a gang bang crowd. In both movies, everyone is just a target.

The worst thing however about Lone Survivor is that in the end it is a terrible movie. Porn is what it is, and sort of exists simply to provide whatever cheap stimulation one gets from watching it. It is repetitive and boring. Lone just devolves into an endless loop of killing that gets so boring the viewer keeps flipping back to the pizza guy surprising the lonely woman in the bath.

When the time is up for both movies, you feel about the same. Any pleasure is wiped away as you realize people were exploited, and your emotions hijacked, for a cheap thrill. You feel empty, used. You’re embarrassed by war porn that tries to convince you that killing people in Afghanistan has some purpose, same as you’re embarrassed that you believed for a selfish moment that all those oohs and ah ah ahs just might have been real. Both movies make you feel good briefly about something that isn’t good.

And you can’t tell anyone about what you did. You are the Lone Survivor.

BONUS: Despite constant bragging about how the SEALs are the most highly trained warriors on earth, not one in the movie speaks one word of Pashtu. In the odd moments were Afghans need to be told how to service the SEALs’ needs, communication is done via shouted English and threats. You’d think at some point in all that training a little local language would come in handy. But, like with porn, you’re not there for the dialogue, right?

—————————————————————-

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well, and writes about current events at his blog. Van Buren’s next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent is available now for preorder from Amazon.