Opinion: ‘American Sniper’ takes aim at controversy

Mike Richards is a senior English major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Mike Richards

During the past week, I’ve been weighing in and reading about the controversy surrounding “American Sniper.” I haven’t had a thorough opinion and was recently called out on it, though it became clear I wasn’t concrete in my thinking.

“Does ‘American Sniper’ glorify war?” “Is Chris Kyle an admirable man, especially looking at his public persona?” “Is there a war-like, or even racial, agenda behind ‘American Sniper?’”

Now, these are not necessarily my own personal views, but these are what I’ve taken out as the talking points thus far.

My outspoken pal, Bill Maher, jumped into the fire again by calling Kyle a “psychopath patriot.” He took a quote where Kyle talks about killing the “savages” and his heightened feelings toward war and being at war.

Though Maher makes a decent accusation, he does have a tendency to misconstrue context from fact.

MSNBC brought in Col. Jack Jacobs, its military analyst and a Medal of Honor recipient, to speak about the controversy. He touched on the fact that this indeed is a movie, so some things will be romanticized because the studio does want to make money. There’s no denying that.

Jacobs makes a great point, and this ties in to how I’ve been feeling toward it all — that not everyone knows about war and the effect of it.

I’ve always had respect for those willing to sacrifice their lives to protect the country. I know that I couldn’t do what these people have done in terms of bravery and heroism, so I cannot relate. Though, when it comes down to it, war is something I’ve never wholeheartedly supported. I don’t adhere to the act of killing people, but that goes with the knowing that I could never do it. But let me make it clear: I am not anti-military.

What concerns me is this romanticizing of war that could be perceived from watching the film. Chris Kyle, from what has been learned and read from stories to interviews and the movie itself, was a broken man, something that can happen as an aftereffect from his time at war. Try to justify how your psyche would be after totaling around 160 kills. (He claimed it to truly be around 255). I can’t even imagine one kill.

I haven’t seen the film, so I haven’t a thorough opinion on the Hollywood representation of it. Clint Eastwood has been a pinnacle piece to Hollywood, though he has drawn controversy before. Just watch or read about “Gran Torino,” which is still a fantastic movie though it does have some cringe-worthy racist remarks. 

Again, I do not know Chris Kyle. I do not know what it’s like to be at war. I do not understand it all, and I never will because reading isn’t the same as experiencing.

But the public needs to know that this is a film, and the studio will do what it can to make money. Therefore, if anything, I recommend reading the book as a companion piece if you see the movie.

We will all have opinions — but like myself who spoke before knowing. Make sure you have the knowledge and sources to back yourself up.

Contact Mike Richards at [email protected].