I received an epiphany as a result of having parts of two SyFy Channel movies inflicted on me this weekend: The current crop of screenwriters is totally clueless about things military. Granted, SyFy movies, especially Battle of Los Angeles (not to be confused with the now-in-theaters Battle: Los Angeles), may be the bottom of the barrel in many regards, but what I’m about to point out applies to most standard Hollywood fare as well. The depiction of the military personnel and military culture were atrocious. I don’t mean they necessarily showed military personnel in a bad light, although mostly they did. The depictions were totally cartoonish.
My father’s generation (a.k.a., The Greatest) were familiar with the military because they were in it. My generation was exposed to things military by stories from our parents and a little government program called the draft. (From raising my hand in the ROTC office to receiving my mandatory separation letter was a 30-year familiarization.) But, since then, there have been two generations of writers who are mostly clueless about things military. Their understanding of what the military and military life is about is based on movies written by people who also had no exposure to the military. They see only a reflection in the water from a side show mirror.
I’m not saying that everyone in the military walks around with a halo glowing around their head. Far from it. The range of good and evil is as great in the service as out of it. However, what passes for depictions of military life are as accurate as a story about Russia would be if the only Russians you had seen were Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader on Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
Maybe we should draft all screenwriters under thirty, or maybe they should at least do a little homework before writing about military people.
By the way, the slogan of the Syfy Chanel is “Imagine Greater.” Well, that’s not hard to do.