Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

The Cradle Of Civilisation

with 3 comments

What’s the difference anyway, man? I mean, war’s almost over. We’re just about done with this bitch.

In 2003, I watched the invasion of Iraq on television. Later that year Evan Wright published a series of articles in Rolling Stone on his time embedded with the First Recon Battalion of the US Marine Corps, the first coalition unit into the country. In 2004, Wright turned these articles into a book, Generation Kill, which I read in 2006. This was, in turn, filmed as a miniseries for HBO and released in 2008. In 2010, I watched the series on DVD and the war continued towards its eighth year.

All this context is by way of posing the question: what is left to be said? When the book was first published it was still a rare glimpse and an important critique. Now, as the Chilcott Inquiry daintily picks through the paperwork, it is much too late. Generation Kill has passed from journalism to entertainment. To their credit, David Simon and Ed Burns have filed off the rough edges of Wright’s functional approach to create an extremely skillful adaptation. However, if it is too late for truth, it is too early for drama.

Instead, here are two bits of meta-commentary that have lodged in my head. Firstly, Sgt Rudy Reyes – the bodybuilding object of the marines’ homoerotic gaze who find that the war interferes with his diet of sushi and vegetables – is played by… Rudy Reyes. The war has dragged on so long that he has been able to reinvent himself as an actor in his own biopic. Secondly, the guidance on the back of the DVD states that the programme “contains strong language, violence, sex references and real corpses.” What can you say?

Written by Martin

3 February 2010 at 10:02

Posted in television

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3 Responses

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  1. You could say that recruiting ‘real’ soldiers, and showing footage of ‘real’ corpses isn’t the coup for authenticity it might appear. Baudrillard said a lot of daft things, but what he says about hyperrealism is worth listening too. Real corpses don’t look as real as do CGI corpses; and whether real soldiers work in this sort of drama depends not upon the reality of their soldiering experience but how good they happen to be as actors. R. Lee Ermey would be a case in point.

    Adam Roberts

    3 February 2010 at 11:19

  2. But Full Metal Jacket wasn’t released in 1969.

    I’m not really interested in the authenticity or novelty of what is being presented, I am just struggling to know how to react to it.


    3 February 2010 at 13:59

  3. No, I realise I wasn’t responding to the meat of your post. As far as that goes: I’m not sure what’s magical about time-lag between a war and the representation of that war. Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ appeared whilst British troops were still fighting Russians in the Crimea.

    I could go further: the pretence of ‘a decent interlude’ between war and its fictionalisation plays into the hands of an ideology that suggests ‘war’ is a discrete entity, with a start and an end … the notion that ‘war’ has closure, which is a wicked, neocon belief. It’s a lot more messy than that, surely.

    Adam Roberts

    3 February 2010 at 14:04

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