Last Tuesday night, my history curriculum teacher decided to throw a movie night. As the end of the semester is winding down and we're working our way through our last assignments and last couple weeks of classes, he wanted to provide us with a social night to help de-stress and watch a bit of "created history."
There was roughly twenty of us who showed up for the movie and after voting, he put in First Blood (also known as Rambo), based on the novel by David Morrell. I don't know if you are familiar with the story, but this was the first time for me.
In summary, in this 14A movie (Canada's rating) John Rambo is a Vietnam veteran who is now back home in the USA. From the get-go, we understand that he does not have a permanent home and walks from town to town. His hair is shaggy, his face unshaved, he's dressed in a dirty old jacket and he carries a sleeping bag over his shoulder. Near the start of the movie, he comes to the town of Hope, Washington and immediately runs into sheriff, Teasle. The sheriff takes one look at him and classifies him as a vagabond. Not wanting that sort of trash in Hope, he drives him out of town. Rambo though, is hungry and wants to get some food, so, after Teasle drops him off, he turns around and walks back into town. This leads to his unwarranted arrest and then abuse by the police force. The tension escalates and things progress to a whole out war between Rambo and the police.
I would say that overall I enjoyed the movie because it is different from what I am used to watching. In reflecting, I would say the biggest difference is that although Rambo is the main character, he hardly talks throughout the whole movie. A lot of what we know about him is shown or said by other characters. What is powerful about this is that the other characters, such as the police force, are very quick to voice their views and theories but slow to actually see who and what Rambo is. To me, this implies that his actions mean little against the opinions and labels of others.
I felt a deep sadness as I watched the film and found myself getting increasingly frustrated with the sheriff and his men. They judge Rambo as a vagabond and a criminal because of how he looks and not what he has done. Even after they find out that he is a veteran, their attitude toward him does not change and he is still painted as the enemy.
At the end, our teacher said that this film is a metaphor. Rambo is not just one veteran but represents many who come back from wars to find that their country and the people that they fought to protect--the people that they fought to bring hope to--reject and fear them. People are quick to make assumptions about Rambo without figuring out where he has been and what he has been through, classifying him as crazy when he doesn't fit their "normal" mold. Rambo should not have been shunned for merely passing through a town. He should not have needed to carry his sleeping bag on his back with no place to call home. He should not have to worry about holding a job. And he should not have to deal with PTSD all on his own.
In conclusion, I thought this was a powerful movie. It raises an issue that will affect our society as long as we send men and women off to fight our wars. When their service is done, how do we care for them? How do we show them respect? Even if you are a pacifist and are very anti-war, that doesn't mean you should disrespect the men and women who have fought and died in wars. In comparison, let's imagine that you are anti-garbage. You hate waste and live an all-green lifestyle. Do you then hate garbage men/women? If you do, that doesn't make sense. They don't make the garbage; they just deal with it. Wars are caused by a series of complex factors and not by the soldiers who are merely tasked with "dealing with it."
Thank you for reading.