Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why were they saving Private Ryan?

I'm sure you've seen the movie Saving Private Ryan before right? Tom Hanks playing a squad leader that is sent into WW2 era Europe in order to find Private Ryan before he is killed in combat.

I've seen the movie before and I thought I realized what the film was about. I was of the mind that the film was about trying to save the life of a man who was had already suffered so much loss (having lost three brothers to the war already, making him the last one). But thanks to this comment I read today at Good Men Project by wellokaythen, I'm not sure:

Several people have mentioned _Saving Private Ryan_.
The movie is NOT really all about men. Only on a superficial level is it only about men.
Even though all the main characters are (cis-)male, there a gigantic inter-gender dynamic at the heart of the plot. The whole point of the plot, and the source of title of the movie, is about a woman. There is a very illustrative moment in the film that clearly suggests a sense of male disposability relative to women. At one point, a male character quotes a letter from Lincoln to a woman in the Civil War, thanking her for sacrificing her sons on the altar of the republic. Anyone notice that? Just think about that for a moment. Her heroism comes continuing to live after the actual death of men in her family.
The whole premise of the last 2/3 of the movie, whether this premise is all that realistic or not, is to prevent a woman back home from becoming any sadder at the loss of one more of her children. Not save her life, but to prevent her grief from getting any bigger. If momma Ryan loses one more son, she may not be able to take it. (Think how the sons themselves might feel about it….) The entire point of “saving” one soldier is not for his own sake, not because his life is precious on its own, but to save his mother any more grief. Several of the soldiers on the mission point out the absurdity of this, and Private Ryan himself balks at this illogical idea, but what answer do they get? Do your job. You’ll live if I order you to live, and you’ll risk your life if I tell you to risk your life.
I found the masculine themes in the movie to be somewhat muted, actually. There’s just about a bare minimum of attention to the fact that they are men as men, very little conversation with each other about manhood. There’s no traditional John Wayne war movie swagger or monologues about “being a man” or long explanations about women. No one’s called a dick or a pussy or talks very much about sexual conquest. They don’t talk about penises or testicles. Their masculinity might even be downplayed more in the movie than it was in real life. They hardly talk like what you’d expect soldiers to talk like, actually. (What you might call the Ambrose-ization of the image of the American GI in WWII. Apparently we’re supposed to think the D-Day boys went to Normandy straight from Sunday School!) Even when the officers use the term “men,” it’s almost a bureaucratic term. They’re not so much individual gender units anymore as they are serial numbers.
When I think about I believe wellokaythen has a point.

Was the US Army trying to send Private Ryan back home for his own sake or was it for the sake of his mother back home?

If there had been a fifth Ryan son living somewhere, would this event have even happened?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just found this. Spielberg actually likes women. That's why.