A look at the controversy surrounding “American Sniper”

Aubrey Shanahan

Chris Kyle was a U.S. Navy SEAL and a veteran of the Iraq War. He is the subject of the film “American Sniper,” which was released about a month before the two year anniversary of his death, and was instantly met with controversy.

The film was based on the autobiography of Kyle — who was killed by a former marine on Feb. 2, 2013 — and stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, with Clint Eastwood at the helm.



By no means does Eastwood attempt to glorify Kyle, as many viewers were quick to claim. Many of Kyle’s faults are put on display, particularly those involving his home life.

However, many critics believe that the film represents a harsh kind of nationalism, and sends the wrong kinds of messages about what we teach our military and our citizens to believe about our enemies.

Now, it is dangerous to judge a person based on their profession, especially when it involves putting their own lives on the line. It seems as though people have become resentful of those involved in the military and in law enforcement. There are bad people in all fields of employment, and there are good people who have made mistakes, big and small.

Granted, it is difficult to discern if there are details being left out of the film that might tarnish Kyle’s heroic image, but people are too quick to assume that he is a terrible person because of the work he did in Iraq. It makes sense that putting Chris Kyle in the national spotlight has raised questions about his honor and morality as a soldier, but until there is concrete evidence, there should be no concrete statements.

Michael Moore made remarks about snipers in the military being “cowards”, which were, quite frankly, disgusting. He claims that they were not aimed at the film, but it is extremely hard to believe that there is no correlation, as they came out relatively soon after the film was released.

Seth Rogen added to the problem by comparing the film to the Nazi propaganda shown in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Again, Rogen attempted to remove the notion of comparison, but his actual words indicate otherwise.

Regardless of how you might feel about the wars being fought, blame should not be placed upon individuals fighting it. They risked their lives to (hopefully) better our country and the world we live in.

That’s not to say that there are not problems with this film. For instance, the way in which the people of Iraq were portrayed was insensitive and harsh; there are obviously huge numbesr of innocent people living in the Middle East that do not deserve to be called savages. But it is realistic in the sense that this is how Kyle felt he had to look at the situation in order to deal with all of the kills he made.


Perhaps the biggest flaw with Kyle’s heroism is a disproportionate amount of recognition when compared to other soldiers. Some veterans are celebrated by no one when they return or after they are killed.

Kyle was lucky enough to be widely celebrated in his community. It can be painful for the families of other soldiers to see that level of praise when their loved ones have sacrificed just as much.

“American Sniper” has been nominated for six Oscars. It will be interesting to see if the controversy affects how many of those nominations turn into awards.

Collegian A&E Writer Aubrey Shanahan can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @aubs926.