A Review of the Movie, “A Few Good Men”
After seeing the movie “Black Hawk Down” on a recent Friday evening, I have reflected repeat-edly on this movie.
Despite the heavy artillery, gunfire and airships tumbling to the ground, the theatrics cre-ated to make a war movie all the more appealing to the audience, there is a deep, rich side to this movie. Based on actual events that took place on 03 October 1993 in Somalia, the movie producers did a good job in spite of some liberty with history necessary to make the movie ex-citing and appealing to the average audience. However, something else comes through that the writers and producers may not have planned, intended or expected.
That something else is an excellent portrayal of male-to-male love created through esprit de corps and camaraderie. It is not sexual love. It is not intended to be. It is, however, the unique connectedness men develop in a military-style, all male setting. Men bond. It is what “being a good soldier” is about.
Toward the end of this movie, young Sgt. Matt Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) asks a fellow soldier, Sgt. Hoot (played by Eric Bana), “Why do you keep doing it? Why do you keep going back out there?” Hoot ponders for a moment, seeming not quite sure how to answer. Then he responds, “It is for them. It is for the guy next to you.”
Here is a fact: Military environment for the most part is a homosexual environment. Sex is the one part missing (presumably) from that environ. That men can love other men in nonsex-ual ways, rely on them, hug them and cry with them, is not a failure of the masculine. That men can love other men in sexual ways is not a failure of the masculine, either.
I recall a friend some years ago who was “seeing” a Marine. My friend shared with me, “It’s kind of odd. My boyfriend loves the sex and all that. But, NO kissing! To him, kissing a guy just isn’t right.” Yet, having sex with another guy was okay. Kissing implied intimacy, turn-ing the act of sex into something feminine. That was unacceptable to the young Marine, no matter how frustrating it might have been for his civilian boyfriend.
In a Details magazine interview of young Marines in the early nineties, when the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy was being implemented, one young Marine said to the inter-viewer: “The only difference between a straight Marine and a gay Marine is a six pack of beer.” Perhaps his comment oversimplified the issue, but it speaks to the barriers, barriers often inten-tionally created on ill-founded or false theories in order to keep people under control.
In Black Hawk Down it is refreshing to see a display of young military men crying over the loss of a buddy, or simply out of fear itself. It suggests that we, men – straight men and gay men – have advanced somewhere along the emotion scale. Even gay men do not cry, stuck back in time with the words from a parent, usually the father, “Suck it up! Boys don’t cry.” It is okay for boys to cry.
And, boys and men do cry, as we should. Considerable emotional crap and sludge gets washed away through tears of sorrow, fear and regret. And what about the tears of joy? Are men to let tears roll down like mighty waters in the heat of a huge victory or a feat of extraor-dinary athletic achievement? Or, do we just “suck it up”, pop another beer and belch out the words, “Geez! That was great!” the tears choked back through brew swirling down our throat?
For one man to love another man translates no more into having sex with him than having sex with a man translates into loving him. That formula is universal for gay and straight folk alike. Intimacy between men does not translate into sex, anymore than sex translates into in-timacy. That, too, is a universal formula for gay and straight alike.
What Black Hawk Down left me with is a sense of encouragement. Encouraged to see the film industry evolve to a point where it can show young soldiers crying together or hugging one another without someone in the audience letting out a huge gasp in disgust. In the framework of U.S. military service, gay men in the military are not the problem anyway. Other nations are admitting openly gay personnel with little fanfare and even less anxiety. In the U.S., it is straight men fearing gay men, fearing a gay man may bring that straight guy to realize he, too, might be a little bit gay. And, as some bisexuals might tell you, not all men are “full time” gay or “full time” straight.
Whether in combat, in Special Forces units, or non-combat peacetime, the few good men work in unison. They are a unit. One unit. Symbiosis. How a man undresses or what he does once undressed does not really affect morale of the unit, plus or minus, despite current military propaganda to the contrary. It is the military’s interpretation, interpretation most often biased to the negative, which places some military men in the dark abyss of denial, fear and confusion. It is their fear, fear of being labeled a “sissy,” that drives some men to extreme measures. The beating death of Army Sgt. Winchell just a few years ago is a perfect example. Winchell was “known” as gay among his buddies. He whipped a young soldier’s butt during a fight one night. That young soldier, taunted because he had been beaten “by a fag,” bludgeoned Winchell to death with a baseball bat. The rest now is history. Unfounded fear, unnatural fear leads some men to drastic acts.
Men are victims of a lie, the lie that tells us not to feel. And worse: We cannot feel. Little wonder there is so much rage and anger in American men, especially straight. Men have been told far too long we cannot be who or what we are – naturally. Black Hawk Down, intentionally or unintentionally, dispels the myth. Real men do cry. Even a “few good men” do cry!