Life and Afterlife of an American Hero

What does the posthumous veneration of Chris Kyle say about America?

In May 2013, Steven Spielberg announced that his next film would be an adaptation of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. Military History. Bradley Cooper will star as “the Devil of Ramadi,” the Navy SEAL whose 160 confirmed kills are his claim to fame. That America’s most beloved filmmaker is going to give Kyle the same reverent treatment he gave Oskar Schindler and Abraham Lincoln, starring People magazine’s “Sexiest Man of 2011,” says a lot about the place that Kyle occupies in the popular imagination. However, a long-form biographical piece by Nicholas Schmidle in the June 2013 New Yorker, as well as Kyle’s own memoir, paints a disturbing picture about Spielberg’s latest subject. If Kyle is to be celebrated as an American hero, it speaks volumes about America and what our values have become in the decade+ since the Global War on Terror began.

Chris Kyle on a rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq

Chris Kyle on a rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq

Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the US began the War on Terror: a war sold to the public ostensibly against a brand of totalitarian religious extremists; “Islamofascists” who had no regard for the sanctity of life, basic human decency, or democratic institutions. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney declared that in order to fight this new war, the US “would have to work the dark side.” “I’m not a fan of politics,” Kyle explains in American Sniper, “I like war.” For someone who loved to kill, Kyle was in the right place at the right time.  Continue reading

Lorenzo’s Meta-Theory of Fan Theories

One of the cool things about the internet is that every form of pop culture is basically available to anyone, and everyone gets to talk to fellow fans. You can watch anything you want, and nerd out over any interest, no matter how niche: Patton Oswalt’s dictum about “everything that ever was, available forever.” Consequently, though alternate readings of film predate Deckard-is-a-replicant, the internet is big on sharing fan theories, an alternate or supplemental narrative meant to enhance a fan’s enjoyment of a familiar story. Having seen copious articles about fan theories in humor magazines, listicle factories, film magazines, and online forums, I think I have my own meta-fan theory, Lorenzo’s theory of fan theories, and it is that any story can & will be made darker by someone theorizing that part of the story is a character’s mental creation brought about by some trauma, usually impending death. Continue reading