Megan Leavey and War in Film/Television

In the past couple of weeks I’ve thought repeatedly about bringing up the upcoming movie, Megan Leavey.  She is a Marine veteran who served as a dog handler and completed two tours in Iraq.  The Hollywood Reporter has a good article about the film and the “Got Your Six” approval.  As someone who desires to see female service stories elevated, her story being shown on film makes me incredibly happy.  The difficulty of her situation, being injured in Iraq, is a key factor in why I’ve debated mentioning the movie.  I want to see it, but I don’t want to see it in the movie theater.  I feel awkward in mentioning how much I want others to see it when it can be interpreted wrong that I am making the choice to not see it at the same time it comes out in theaters on June 9th.

June 9th already is not a good day for me.  It’s the anniversary of my mother’s death.  I lost her to lung cancer when I was 16 and I know all these years later I still hate this day.  I hate this day because I didn’t know my mother was dying and I was surprised coming home the last day of my sophomore year to be greeted on the front steps of my home by my extended family.  They told me I had to say goodbye to my mom.  As I write this news to you, I am overcome with tears.  I don’t like going back to that moment as a teenager knowing I am powerless to stop her leaving, knowing that now as a grown woman I cannot reach out to her for support and guidance.  It’s been 17 years and yet I can still crawl back into my teenage skin, feeling the warmth of that day break as I crossed the threshold into my home knowing that was the last day we had together.   I cannot bring a second burden into that day for my personal wellbeing.

War movies and shows are difficult for me.  I’ve only attempted to watch Saving Private Ryan once.  I couldn’t get past the beach scene in the beginning.  I’ve never seen Lone Survivor or American Sniper.  After much convincing from my husband that the series was balanced between combat action and Marine Corps culture and relatable experiences, I agreed to watch Generation Kill.  (I am impressed with Generation Kill as an educational tool about the Iraq war although there are scenes which stress me out because I know similar incidents happened in the Al Anbar province during my first Iraq deployment.)  The movie, Fort Bliss, I watched at home and watching the moment where a suicide bomber attack was bound to happen (and did happen in the film) evoked anxiety in me.  I stopped the movie, and waited until I felt comfortable again to finish watching everything afterwards.  In watching The Pacific and Band of Brothers I am comforted by the fact it’s not the same war I was in, but the indirect fire attacks in these bother me the same way as when I watch such attacks featured in more current shows and films.

If I watched that film in the movie theater I think I would find myself to be a mess.  I don’t trust my ability to sit down in a theater and watch and feel an explosion in surround sound.  I don’t want to endure a panic attack, generally speaking. I don’t want to have a panic attack next to a complete stranger and freak that person out. I don’t want to spend $10.50 for a movie ticket to find myself leaving before the film is over.  I don’t care that the film is rated PG-13, versus rated R; the explosion in the film, as I’ve seen in trailer, is something I cannot imagine feeling in the movie theater without finding it upsetting.

I want to see the movie and I want to discuss the valuable elements: female representation, realistic portrayal of military service, construction of the combat theater, and the experience of coming home.  I can do these things, if I watch the movie in an environment that’s comfortable to me.  I will watch the movie at home when it becomes available; this way I can stop the movie when I need to but still have an opportunity to critic the film.

As always, thanks for your patience.

I like sharing what’s going on as it relates to the veteran community.  Please check out the film when it comes out and I’ll join the conversation again after watching it in the privacy of my home.

~Cheryl

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