The liberal publicity line on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

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The director and the screenwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, in the two months since the release of the film have tried and discarded
a number of defenses against accusations by Jane Mayer, Karen Greenberg, Glenn Greenwald, Dan Froomkin and others who say that the film distorts history and
that it will have the effect of softening the popular acceptance of torture.

In order of justifications, Bigelow and Boal said: (1) That Zero Dark Thirty reflects a “journalistic approach”–apparently meaning that it has a fast trim
storyline and you can’t include everything. (2) That to make the film, they interviewed CIA agents who assured them that torture yielded substantial clues
toward the killing of Bin Laden. (3) It’s just a movie.

None of those reasons separately convinced anyone. Their incompatibility when taken together suggested that Zero Dark Thirty was made in a hurry–as if the
filmmakers had never stood back, walked around their project, and asked what star they were sailing by.

In a recent interview interview in Salon, Mark Boal tries out a possibly more resistant strain of apology. The hero, he now says, is a feminist heroine. Zero Dark Thirty is a simple police procedural all right, but the detective is a liberated Western woman, and her quest is to rid the world of Bin Laden. Challenge the heroine’s tactics or protest the low morale of the Bigelow-Boal redaction of history and you align yourself with the oppressive males of the East.

By a coincidence that fits nicely with this presentation, Kathryn Bigelow has joined a social media campaign [link here] for including women in combat. Her tweet for the women-in-combat movement–

“Women helped find the world’s most dangerous man. Are you surprised? #ZeroDarkThirty

Join Kathryn Bigelow in sharing this message together at the same time – automatically.

–is attached to advertising copy that oddly alternates between first-person and third-person voices. The ad affirms her status as a “lifelong pacifist” under a
new aspect: “I personally believe war should be avoided whenever and wherever possible, [but] there is no justification for inequality among those ready and
willing to serve our country in the armed forces.” The next voice we hear praises “the filmmakers” who “tell the story of many men and women.” Then the
author turns into Bigelow again: “When I discovered there were women at the heart of this 10-year odyssey, I was excited to take it on. It was like being dealt a royal flush.”

In conclusion, the action director speaks for herself and her screenwriter to assert that, whether Zero Dark Thirty is fast journalism, or a CIA story about
the CIA, or “just a movie,” Maya, the heroine, was a real woman and she got Bin Laden. “Our account of bin Laden’s pursuit and capture offers viewers an inside
look at women like Maya who dedicate their lives to selflessly protecting our freedom.”

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The card of all cards! Remember when feminism’s slogan was ” women will change (for the better) the world of men”? How’s that going? Weird how all these ism’s end up this way, eh? You start out trying to “liberate” (at least that’s what you say) a group of people, a few at the top get hitched to the existing power structure, and then that group ends up defending and enabling said power structure. To… Read more »

Their ‘women’ justification for the film is nonsense.

you’ve left out michael moore’s defense of ZD30, moore asserting that the film will “make you hate torture.” first of all, that’s not the case for the plural, collective ‘you’. it seems there are plenty of watchers who positively identify with the torturers. second, the whole controversy over the depiction of torture is a mischaracterization of the movie. (the movie clearly supports ‘torture’ as one legitimate tool in the kit, and any ambiguity in the… Read more »

I am convinced that torture sometimes “works” to elict truth, but that it much more often serves to elict whatever will stop the torture, true or false. And that the torturers probably don’t know which is which. And have no way to find out. (I have no idea what “truth serum” does, or whether it works, but at least it doesn’t sound like it does it by “torture”. It sounds as if the Israelis and… Read more »

When I first heard that they were given unprecedented access, I found myself, bizarrely, on the same side of conservatives. The motives for our worry, however, were different. My worry turned out to be the correct one. That the pentagon knew exactly what it was doing when it co-opted co-operated with the filmmakers. From a stylistic viewpoint, the movie has its strengths. But no film which deals with a topic this heavy can afford to… Read more »