Military Movie Myths
Barracks to Business
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 18:10
Watching the hype surrounding Wall Street 2, while being quite near to Wall Street, made me think about the war movies I grew up with. Movies create myths. For movies based on a slice of reality, say one about Wall Street or Iraq, the myths are art imitating life. When people who haven't experienced the reality see the myth, the cycle flips and life will imitate art. For example, a guy wants to be a trader so acts like a trader he saw in a movie. Business school has taught me that the reality of Wall Street is far from the popular opinion. The finance sector isn't filled with evil folks spending their time seeking the destruction of Main Street, rather it is mostly smart twenty-somethings wanting better lives for themselves and their families. It is, however, hilarious to see the depictions of bankers in the movies. They are always far too good looking and skinny to be bankers. Where else can myth overcome reality? The military. If you want to ruin a military movie, watch it with a veteran. Across the country, veterans' spouses have forbidden them from yelling at the screen when Hollywood gets it all wrong. Here are my top myths about war movies.
1 Explosions. Real explosions don't look like movie explosions. Movie explosions are….EXPLOSIVE. Take a look at what grenades do in Commando. They blow up everything in a 10-mile radius. Real grenade explosions just look like a geyser of dirt. And you can't ever pull a pin on a grenade with your teeth. Grenades have all sorts of weird safety devices you have to take off before you throw it and the pin takes a really good tug to pull out.
2 Toilet Paper and Dry Socks. The importance of these items is never emphasized enough. If you are training in the woods for two weeks and you forgot either of the aforementioned items you will be in a world of hurt. Quality of life rapidly diminishes. Trades quickly ensue to procure needed items, often at great cost to the forgetful party. 1 roll = $50, easy.
3 Endless Ammunition. While modern day movies are more accurate, take a look at anything before Black Hawk Down. No one in the film ever reloads and everyone has belts of ammunitions hanging all over their bodies. Learning to reload is important! It is something you have to practice in real life.
4 Soldiers look like Arnold. Most of the infantrymen I was with were 5'8" or so and around 170 lbs. The only guy I knew in my unit that looked like a body builder worked in the admin office.
5 Chinstraps. No one buckles their chinstraps in movies. Even characters in Saving Private Ryan, arguably the most realistic war movie of all time, sport dangling straps. In reality, all of their helmets would fall off when they ran around. In the Army soldiers get yelled at all the time to buckle chinstraps. You might try to walk around with your chinstrap unbuckled (because you watch too many war movies), but then someone would yell at you right away.
6 Boredom & Stupidity. No soldiers in the movies are ever bored enough. Not enough soldiers in movies do incredibly stupid things because of the boredom. In the Army and in war there is a lot of waiting around. To fill time, soldiers do sensible things like play spades…eventually they tire and begin to do nonsensical things like see who can fit the most live frogs in their mouth.
7 Lone Wolf Syndrome. Movies frequently have one guy who goes behind enemy lines to kill all the bad guys or one crazy guy who runs the show….Apocalypse Now, Platoon etc. No one in the real Army does things by themselves. It's an ARMY! That means a bunch of people. They work and live as a team. If Hollywood really wanted to get the military right, they'd have a 10-minute gunfight followed by 12 hours of soldiers chewing tobacco, reading Maxim magazine repeatedly, and talking about the time they forgot their toilet paper. But, like in the movies about Wall Street, it is less about fact and more about entertainment. Nobody goes to the movies to see reality – they go to escape it.
As always, the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us during the week of Oct 4th to Oct 8th :
Joseph T. Prentler, Afghanistan
Ryane Clark, Afghanistan
Cody A. Board, Afghanistan
Daniel J. Johnson, Afghanistan
Karl Andrew Campbell, Afghanistan
Scott A. Lynch, Afghanistan
Stephen C. Sockalosky, Afghanistan
Edwin Gonzalez, Afghanistan