Of the many, many things I do that irritate my husband, two are pertinent here. First, I actually listen to what he says. This can be frustrating for him, because he doesn’t always use his words with precision. When we’re having a discussion and I say “But you said…” his return is usually “I know that’s what I said, but you know that’s not what I meant.” Well, no. If you said one thing, how the heck am I supposed to know that you meant another thing?
My other irritating habit is that I can totally read movies. Aside from the fact that I don’t generally like what’s coming out of Hollywood, I also have a very low boredom threshold. If I can figure out character, plot, and motive in the first ten minutes of the movie, and I don’t like where the movie is going, I’m so out of there. This irritates my husband, although he can also find it useful: “Why did that women get on the train?” “But I thought those two characters were married?” You know . . . questions like that. If there’s foreshadowing or nuance in a movie, I get it.
These two traits are relevant to my perception of antisemitism in Act of Valor. First, I was paying close attention to the dialog, so I heard what I heard. Second, had there been nuance, foreshadowing, character development, etc., I would have gotten it. The line “You’re a Jew,” was out there, and the nuance, foreshadowing, plot, or character development that would normally have explained that line’s meaning were missing, both before and after the line was uttered. That’s my defense.
BUT — and this is a really important “but,” so please stick with me here.
I just got an email from someone purporting to be close to the SEALS involved in the production, and for the time being, I’m comfortable believing that this person is who he says he is, and that what he’s saying is the truth. I won’t quote the bulk of the email verbatim, because I haven’t been given permission to do so. I will, however, pass on the pertinent data, along with my apologies to the SEALS generally and the Senior Chief specifically for having misinterpreted their motives and for having done so very publicly.
First, I have been assured that the Senior Chief is not an antisemite, and I absolutely believe that to be true. I actually never meant to accuse the real Senior Chief of being antisemitic, so I apologize for creating the perception that I did. I didn’t even perceive his character as being antisemitic. I perceived the movie as being antisemitic or, rather, having a rather stunningly antisemitic moment. To the extent, though, that perception becomes reality, I apologize directly to the Senior Chief for accusing him of being antisemitic.
Second, the email writer explained to me that, in the context of the scene (and I am going to quote here) “it was a device to try to separate Christo from Shabal by appealing to the natural enmity between Jews and radical islamists.” Further, the actor, Alex Veadov is, in fact, Jewish, so that charge against him in the movie was a form of method acting that brings together both reality and fiction that, to my mind, meshed in an unfortunate way.
I totally believe the above is true. Indeed, in my earlier posts, I even explored the possibility that it might be true — but rejected it because the line “you’re a Jew” existed in a vacuum. I don’t doubt that the SEALS and the other actors understood the subtext, but for the audience, the line stood there in glorious isolation. The second, missing, line should have been “How can you make common cause with a man who is dedicated to your people’s destruction?” Except that line wasn’t there. As a literalist who listens, its absence was a potent force for me. And I have to say that, as someone who reads movies, there was nothing else in the movie to help me understand that there was an unspoken line driving this scene.
My sense here is that, much as I really dislike Hollywood, Hollywood is adept at one thing, and that is telling the story at both the big, obvious level, and at the lower, more subliminal level. When it’s doing pure entertainment, this works. When it’s doing propaganda, this facility is irritating. This movie bypassed Hollywood, something that I really appreciate. It made an amateur mistake, however, which is to forget that the audience has to have things spelled out, and that’s true whether they’re spelled out explicitly or implicitly. I can’t know what the movie’s makers intend; I can know only what they tell me.
The letter writer closed by asking me to correct my earlier email as quickly as possible lest it create dangerous risks for the men and women in the field. He could have just appealed to my conscience, because I do have one. If I do something wrong, I say so. If I hurt someone’s feelings, I apologize. And if I create the incorrect impression that a person or group has bad motives, I move as quickly as possibly to remedy that error. I now have data showing I was wrong and created a bad impression. This post, written as soon as possible, is meant to correct that, and I’m disseminating this post as widely as possible. And I do most heartily apologize to the Senior Chief and the SEALS for wrongly impugning them.