When I was watching the bad acid trip that the Brits were passing off as the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I saw an ad for an upcoming NBC reality show called Stars Earn Stripes.
For those of you too lazy to watch the YouTube video, Stars Earn Stripes is essentially a collection of B and C level celebrities (and Terry Crews) who are put through elements of basic military training and then tasked with carrying out “missions” (i.e. blow stuff up).
Naturally, the reaction of both myself and everyone I was watching with went a little something like this:
Despite the ad touting that “In the end, it’s all about understanding one thing… true bravery… It’s about honoring our veterans and our law enforcement officers…”.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a show where a bunch of people are given a couple months of watered down military training in an environment more or less free from danger and label it as comparable to the pain, sacrifices, stress, and general hardship of the actual military is about as far as you can get from honoring them. One of the guys I saw the commercial with had been in the military himself, stationed in Afghanistan, and he asserted that the idea of the show was offensive (as did everyone else in the room). Indeed, restoring some faith in humanity, the reaction of pretty much everyone to Stars Earn Stripes has been more or less this:
Let’s break it down here. Stars Earn Stripes is presenting:
- A Sanitized View of War
- A Glamorized View of War
- An Insult to Anyone who is or ever has Been Involved in War
First, let’s address the sanitizing or “white-washing”, as some critics are calling it. Stars Earn Stripes still has ten days to air, however, I think it’s safe to say that the actual decisions and consequences on the show are nothing like what they are in reality. The ad boasts that they will use “Real Explosions” and “Live Ammo”, as if this somehow adds weight or danger to the show. You what other shows have been using live ammo and real explosions for years?
See, the celebrities might be in some danger- but hardly anything that you can’t find on other shows, and nothing on the level of what combat soldiers have to deal with. On top of this, I’m guessing that the celebrities aren’t going to actually kill anyone, or have to grapple with the moral and psychological ramifications of doing so. In fact, the celebrities will never have to worry about any of the basic aspects of military service that soldiers are expected to deal with- constant danger, the possibility of being disabled (if not killed or captured or tortured) for life, the possibility of killing and innocent civilian by accident, or (for the female contestants) the rampant problem of rape. Terry Crews is a tough guy, I’m sure, but I have my doubts as to how he’d react actually witnessing someone (on any side of the conflict) killed. Let’s face the facts, Stars Earn Stripes is not going to show you bodies in all their gory reality. This isn’t war- this is Hollywood.
Second, let’s talk about the glamorization we’re sure to see hear. Of course Stars Earn Stripes will present the celebrities having little breakdowns, or getting dusty or bruised, but even John McClane got pretty trashed in Die Hard.
But the military isn’t just concussion grenades and contusions- there’s plenty of… well- boredom to it. I’m not saying this to put down the armed forces, I’m just trying to offer an accurate picture here. There are toilets to be scrubbed, mess halls to be cleaned, uniformed to be creased and beds to be made. There’s paperwork and basic maintenance. Are we gonna see the Stars Earn Stripes celebrities get chewed out for not having left six inches between their blankets and their sheets? I doubt it.
Thirdly, the combination of the previously mentioned points creates a completely and wholly inaccurate picture of the conditions the men and women of the military find themselves in. Stars Earn Stripes isn’t about the military, it’s about a highly fetishized aspect of war. And make no mistake- we’re not talking about just the military here- we’re talking about war. Without the past decade or so of nonstop conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, it’s highly doubtful that Stars Earn Stripes would even exist, after all, what’s the point of doing a show about the military if you can’t jam it full of explosions? An almost assured side-effect of this lousy and poorly thought-out attempt to “honor” the troops (i.e. make money off of them and their hardships) is the glorification of war. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most dogged pacifist or hard-line advocate of “just cause”- we all know that war itself is not something that should be portrayed this way. Maybe you think war is wrong, maybe you think war is right- you never think war is pretty. As William Tecumseh Sherman, perhaps the most brutal general of the Civil War, put it “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell.”
It cheapens war. In the off chance that you want to hear my full rant about this, here’s the link. The simple version is that this drastic level of ignorance when it comes to the bloodshed- you know, the actual war is not only an insult to the military, but to any and all victims of war, and a direct attack upon the basic decency and dignity of humanity at large.
I’d say that NBC’s heart is in the right place, only I don’t think that’s true. I think this show is a calculated plan to manipulate emotions and capitalize off of human suffering. This has nothing to do with honoring anyone- this is about lining wallets.
Again, to NBC I submit this as my closing remark: