Wednesday, August 27, 2008

War is a Force that Makes Good TV

I just finished watching the finale of HBO's "Generation Kill." It's great. And I had to struggle there not to say "it blew me away." Because that would be tasteless.

The series follows a group of recon Marines as they lead most recent invasion of Iraq. It's told largely from the perspective of Evan Wright, an embedded journalist from Rolling Stone. And, like all great stories--even those that are true--the people, the characters are what keep you hooked.

I won't go into too many details of the show. You can read all three parts of Wright's magazine reporting on the Marine First Recon Battalion here.

But there is a theme or undercurrent of implication that these Marines, crushed together by the weight of combat and killing, are living a kind of brotherhood that no one else can experience. I can buy that. And as a journalist, it drives home another point that I've always suspected is true (and I know is true in me): Many of us gravitate toward the worst kind of unpleasant news scenarios because, well, that's where the action is.

And in fact, it's kind of addictive.

I have seen bodies from a distance and gore up close. Once, when I bluffed my way into the Cook County medical examiner's office to get the names of some recently (and violently) deceased, I passed through the "intake" area--but it was empty. Mostly what I have personally witnessed is the extreme emotional reactions that come along with tragedy: sadness, anger, depression writ large across people and communities.

Sometimes, though, after reading or watching something as powerful as "Generation Kill," I feel a little jealousy for people like Wright, who have weathered the horrors of combat, soaked up a human experience that by any rational standard we should want to avoid.

1 comment:

Scott Parker said...

I think there's definitely something to that. Being a total nerd, I know quite a few people who play World of Warcraft and their massively-multiplayer ilk. Many of them love it for that same reason - the sense of community that comes from shared struggles.

I'm not trying to equate these directly as that would also be tasteless, but it's interesting to see gaming experiences like WoW only become more and more popular as our society loses some of these other bonds between us.