- February 1, 2010
Why America’s 1stSgt doesn’t like Avatar.
We really didn’t appreciate how Marines were portrayed as soulless mercenaries without a shred of moral character. In the film the Marines completely betray our core values for the sake of the bottom line and bow low to their corporate masters like mongrels.
James Cameron claims the main character, Jake Sully, was meant to embody characteristics of Marines. Unfortunately Sully is the exception to the rule in this fictional universe where Marines have no institutional standard of conduct and are merely on the mission for their cut of the take.
On the other hand, there isn’t a Marine in the world that doesn’t think being a door gunner has got the be the coolest job ever. Especially if he gets to operate this monster.
Meanwhile, in the real world, America’s 1stSgt daily stresses to his Marines that their conduct off the battlefield is more defining than their conduct on it. I often joke that I have sent young men outside the wire loaded down with automatic weapons, rockets, grenades, knives, pointed sticks and have not worried about them in the slightest. Because when it mattered, when the world was watching, they did the right thing. What kept me up at night was letting them go out to Waikiki on liberty.
Of the two types of courage – moral and physical – moral courage has always been the most difficult to execute. We teach Marines that this is what defines a warrior and separates him from a mere grunt. It distinctly sets him apart from the mercenary who may be capable on the battlefield but whose moral conduct resembles that of a common thug.
I do get it though, in the movie the troops portrayed were “former” Marines who sold out to the corporation. You won’t see me beating up James Cameron or demanding he apologize. It would just be nice for once if the Marine Corps as an institution (or any of the services for that matter) were portrayed for what it was.
Other instances of Marines portrayed wrongly in film and TV:
Battle Star Galactica – Marines participate in a mutiny in that series. WHAT? That would NEVER HAPPEN. Marines’ traditional role aboard ship is to prevent mutiny. If they did decide to align themselves with mutineers you’d get all of them or none of them. Not some of them. That’s how we operate.
Brothers – I have not seen this film but I understand the Marine Captain is forced by his Taliban captors to choose between his life and that of a Marine Private’s. He opts to beat the Marine to death with a pipe. I say again, this would NEVER HAPPEN. There isn’t a Captain in the Marine Corps who would do such a vile thing. Speaking for all leaders in the Marine Corps I suspect our response to such an offer would be to stare right down the barrel of the nearest AK and reply: “Shoot me then, dirtbag.”
Jarhead – The author of the original book seems to have a personal problem with the Corps. Enough said. Except that I would personally beat Marines into a coma with a shovel if I caught them out in the middle of the desert firing their weapons into the air in “celebration”.
Stargate: Universe – In the first episode Marines and Air Force special ops types defend their base from incoming alien fighter craft with .50 caliber machine guns and anti-tank rockets from trenches. How in the universe are military professionals using WWI tactics and weapons we currently don’t even use to combat conventional aircraft against sub-orbital alien technologies? What the.?
Hey, I’m just saying if scientists get to rail on Star Trek for its blatant violation of scientific laws then I get to comment on blatant misrepresentation of my chosen profession too.
And really, where in the world is their 1stSgt during all this?