In the long and storied tradition of newspaper arts writers who decide to let their true flag fly, the L.A. Times Calendar section today leads with a snide review of an Army recruiting film:
* Army’s filled with the spirit of giving: watches, saxophones, stints in Iraq….
By Carina Chocano, Times Staff Writer
The review opens with:
How awesome is the Army? You really have no idea until you send away for the “Stand Ready: Being a Soldier in the Army Reserve” DVD, as advertised on MTV. Because “learning more” is usually not enough incentive to get the kids on the phone — especially the kinds of kids who sit around watching MTV all the time — the Army was throwing in a free camo hat, the way Sports Illustrated might offer a free sneaker phone with your subscription, to sweeten the deal, if you call now.
I called then. Actually, I went to the Go Army! website and filled out an online form. Three e-mail requests; a brief but terrifying phone conversation with a recruiter; and six to eight weeks of anticipation, then patience, then the total loss of hope later, the DVD arrived. There was no hat in the package — the gift had been upgraded to a sports watch. Does that sound weird? Well, watch the DVD and learn — the Army is all about giving.
and continues with:
Produced by Leo Burnett USA, whose Army contracts totaled about $350 million this year, and directed by Hank Vincent of Avalon Films, “Stand Ready: Be a Soldier in the Army Reserve” opens on a video loop of super-macho, sepia-toned, high-contrast images of modern soldiering. A square-jawed soldier glistens in profile, a chopper flies low overhead, a soldier in a helmet raises a flag. It’s very retro, very now. And that’s just the menu screen.
“We are the men and women of the Army Reserve,” a deep voice intones, as a series of Rockwellian tableaux vivants flashes in front of your eyes to some extremely heartfelt John Mellencamp-ish acoustic strumming. “We live in big cities and small towns. We are regular people who have taken an oath.” The soldiers stand proudly amid the kind of real estate beloved by the makers of breakfast-cereal commercials. The burnished, bucolic beauty — so clean, calm, old-fashioned, benign — is almost unbearable. Ain’t that America?
and then closes with:
The brief, almost incidental allusions to Iraq come later, in the segment on world travel and learning about other cultures.
“When you get deployed, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in the Middle East or Iraq. There are opportunities to make a difference wherever you go.” Be it in Thailand building a schoolhouse, Alaska building a road, the Army lets you “see the sights” and “enjoy the culture” of places as diverse as Australia, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, Malaysia and Amsterdam!
“Tell them about Germany,” the saxophonist says. “Germany was the best time I’ve ever spent in my life.”
Germany, of course, is the home of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which has treated nearly 10,000 soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. And it would seem like a great time, after all that difference-making.
Maybe I’m oversensitive after reading so much about the “vigils” Code Pink is holding to tell out wounded soldiers that they have been injured for nothing, or lies, or oil, and so over-reacting to their use as an antimilitary punch line.
Maybe I’ve just gotten fed up with an entertainment industry that is reflexively anti-American interests (in the spirit of cosmopolitanism, of course) and that belittles “red state values” reflexively while having none of its own.
Or maybe it’s just fatigue at seeing the Times slowly wash away the respect that I held for it for much of my life.
There are all kinds of discussions and debates to have about Iraq and the war, our policies, terrorism, our military and how it recruits, treats its soldiers, and treats its opponents.
what I think I’m mostly tired of is people who won’t have a stand-up debate or argument about those issues and aren’t adult enough to avoid self-satisfied efforts to slide conclusions onto the table while claiming they aren’t.
After all, they’re just reviewing a video.
I’ll be writing a letter, which I’ll post here. You may wish to write your own.
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote the article.
alice.short@latimes edits the daily Calendar section.