Reopening Jarhead

March 13th, 2006

Tonight's episode (at 7:30; repeated on Friday at 10:30 p.m.) is a rerun of my interview with Anthony Swofford, the author of Jarhead. The book -- a memoir of the first Gulf War from the vantage point of a Marine sniper -- is a beautiful work of prose about a godawful experience. The movie version -- just out on DVD -- captures some of the brutal language of Swofford's text and combines it with striking imagery; the effect on me, as a viewer, wasn't comparable to the mind-bending experience of reading the book, but it was pretty devastating nonetheless.

Anthony SwoffordAs a fledgling interviewer, I found this conversation to be particularly gratifying: I was genuinely freaked out by the experiences that Swofford had endured, and I wondered whether I'd be able to connect with him in a way that would be comfortable for both of us, and for the viewer. As it turned out, I felt like we did connect -- which gave me hope that I'd be able to conduct interviews with a wide range of guests.

I'm very curious to see what Swofford's next book -- the one he's working on now -- will be like. My strong suspicion is that the craft and focus he brought to Jarhead would not be lost on a less obviously "intense" subject. ...

Entry Filed under: tv episodes

3 Comments

  • 1. Ryan Miller  |  March 13th, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    I was somewhat disturbed with the version of the Marine Corps experience I witnessed in the film jarhead. As a non-combat veteran of only four years I never witness much of the behavior common in the film. The “field fuck” scene in which Marines stripped their uniforms and NBC suits in order to simulate homosexual intercourse for television reporters was particularly disturbing. I would like to know if the author witnessed behavior similiar to this or if this was fictional? The scene when the men scored the moonshine and Jake Gyllenhaal decided to strip into a thong and prance around the tent was another scene which was quite uncomfortable. I do not agree that it was a good decision to include such homo-erotic attempts at humor. If the author knows so much about the difficulty a Marine has assimilating into civilian culture, I wonder how he suggests approaching solutions to civilian inquiries toward homosexual references. I don’t know what unit the author was from but none in which I was apart of would condone let alone highlight this sort of behavior. I think Mr Gyllenhaal is better suited as a brokeback type actor rather than a fellow devildog.

    Dissapointed,
    Ryan Miller

  • 2. James Zilligen  |  March 24th, 2006 at 3:55 am

    I found the film to be a bit more dramatic than reality…But afterall, it is a movie, is it not? It’s designed for entertainment and money making. So why such disappointment? They’ve basically taken a full length book and condensed it into a two hour film. I would emplore you to take your four active years and fit them into a two hour window. It would be humanly impossible. Keep in mind that this is not a “Marine Corps” story, about the Marine Corps itself. Nor is it the story of the Marine Corps through the eyes of an outsider, whose goal is to glorify the Corps. This is the story of the Marine Corps through the eyes of a 20 y/o LCpl, that happens to be Anthony Swofford. Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant. You have your version of the Marine Corps, I have mine, and he has his. Bottom line is that you should probably read the book, then make your judgement call. But we’re all brothers and we should not be out trying to compete for who’s got the best old corps stories and who’s right and who’s wrong. I never hear anyone debate the validity of stories that were passed by Marines that served under Chesty Puller, even though he is directly quoted for things he may or may not have said in combat. Swofford writes a book, which is consequently made into a movie, and people jump up demanding proofs and shouting “liar.” It’s his story… Let him tell it. I certainly wouldn’t jump all over a brother for telling his story. Semper Fi…

  • 3. Josh Kornbluth  |  April 15th, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Ryan & James: I really appreciate your writing in with your comments. On the point of whether either the book or film is representative of Marine Corps life in the first Gulf War, I’m not qualified to say. But I totally agree with James that Swofford should be judged on the book, which he wrote, and not on the film version, which he didn’t (though it’s true that he was doing interviews as part of the movie’s P.R. campaign, which implies that he thought it was at least relatively true to his account).


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