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Inglorious Analogies: The Golden Rule, Killing Nazis and Inglorious Basterds.

According to Carl Jung, there are two judging functions: thinking, and feeling. (Teaser: our new website will dive further into this topic.) In my opinion, most of us tend to feel art more than we think about it. We feel that a movie is good or bad, but can rarely say why a movie is good or bad.

Movies touch our heart strings, make us laugh, or fulfill our lust for blood. This being On Violence, I think you know which we’ll be covering today.

What else, aside from gut emotional reaction or blood lust, could explain success of Inglorious Basterds? (314 million dollars grossed, 4 Golden Globe nominations.) It feels good as a movie; it satiates our collective blood lust. I mean, who can't cheer watching Hitler and Nazis burn to death? Especially perverted, one dimensional Nazis.

Nazis are the only real villains we have left in our post-modern, morally-relative society, a holdover from a more idealistic, black and white era. (You could also say naive.) We can root for them to die, cheer at them being tortured, and laugh as the Jew Bear bashes an officer's head in with a bat, all without having to feel bad. They’re Nazis, they might not even count as human.

But thinking about the film even a little tears the whole thing down. The Basterds carve swastikas into the foreheads of German soldiers so that Germans can't take their swastikas off, but weren’t there only 8 million Nazi party members out of 69 million Germans? Didn’t Nazi’s carve Stars of Davids into the foreheads of some of their enemies?

(This is, of course, if you can even get past the ridiculous plot. First, that Tarantino changes the ending to World War II, which I’m willing to accept. And two, that twelve men with virtually no language or culture training can stay behind enemy lines for months on end. It's stupid. Actually, just don’t think about the plot at all.)

The most damning way to think about the movie is to apply the “Golden Rule” to it, or as Confucious, Jesus and others said, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

Forget about Nazis. Forget about Hitler. Do we want our enemy's soldiers--be they Indian, Japanese, Nazi, Taliban, Communist, terrorist, Hun, Confederate or Union Jack--carving symbols into the foreheads of our soldiers? Would we want them beating our soldiers to death with baseball bats? 

Is it OK to treat another country's soldiers the way the Basterds do?

The obvious answer to all of these questions, after even just a moment's thought, is no. But we don’t want to think about films this way. We dream of a simpler time, when there was a good and evil, and no gray areas. As Ralph McQuarrie says in an interview about his film, Valkyrie, "Somewhere along the way all war movies became a meditation on war. Because somehow it was like the filmmaker is saying I know you came here to see people get the shit blown up on Normandie but..we can't feel good about it." No, you shouldn't feel good about watching someone get blown up.

So, as my dad told me, "don't think about this movie too hard." Because if you think about it, it all falls apart.

six comments

Who hangs around an ambush site with prisoners making tons of noise when they know there are German patrols within a mile? And why cast Mike Myers for the English officer? Two things among a plethora of problems with this movie.

OK Matty P hit on it for me, but I will go into it anyways. Eric C often criticizes me for my approach to war movies. I take apart the tactics of units pretty harshly. Not just that they are arrayed improperly, but that commanders choose to hit the wrong targets or that people fail to understand the importance of intelligence when conducting targeting (essentially that is the process going on in gangster movies).

But in Inglorious Basterds Eric C couldn’t hold it in. He kept saying, is that really what would happen? I kept saying, no way. Matty P is right, in a war zone you never conduct an ambush then choose to hang around afterwards, especially if you are the guerrilla or insurgent.

My biggest complaint though is the way Hitler was killed. That movie theater had no protection at all, no soldiers in the lobby, out front, and only two (two!) in front of his box. Instead of thinking critically about how a unit could try to kill Hitler, he made up a scenario that made it implausibly easy.

And this movie is nominated for four golden globes.

Also the US Army lost one of its best, SGT Lucas Beachnaw. I will have more to say on Monday.


Yep, insane BS usually gets nominated for globes, oscars – you name it!

Mind you, Valkyrie wasn’t as great as it could have been either.
Even though I understand why Tom Cruise did it and the message he wanted to get across, which is very much appreciated… but it all felt just so faked. But perhaps it’s just me, because I know the sights, met victims, felt the horror, suffered enough from the “aftershock” these bastards had created… so the movie almost felt like a comedy to me… I guess it is possible that the average audience could have thought it was realistic… I really don’t know.

Michael, it also always pisses me off, when movies are fairytales, rather than at least a little bit realistic.
However, coming back to “black hawk down” – yes you guys are right, it’s realistic, but also bloody painful to watch them get deployed like that!!!

Re Carl Jung, have to say, I’m not much a fan of psychiatry as it’s taught these days, but of course there is an analytical side and an emotional side to all of us. Most people do respond instantly to emotional inflow and unfortunately usually not all too analytical.
But I would also say that an emotional scale could be seen as a universal language, which is understood by everyone.
It could perhaps even be defined as the true language of the soul.

Michael C., I´m sorry if that is somebody you knew. There is not much else I can say to that, and I hope that you and the people he knew are doing okay and handling it well.

I thinkwe have enough fairy tale depictions of war ina ction movies and summer block busters, we don’t need our serious award winning films to be just as unrealistic.

As for Carl Jung, I can take and leave a lot of what he says, but this particular topic makes a lot of sense to me, i’ll be writing about it more in the future.