Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

War and the narrative

November 4, 2007

War, as seen on TV, is largely unsuitable to inspire awe. We see soldiers, not warriors. This is not the war we have an unconscious longing for. The war we long for is the one we’ve always been told of, the war of heroes.

It is the war of the Illiad, the knights and the samurai, the 300 spartans and all those kings we like to call “The Great”. We know,  of course, that this conception of war is inappropriate to modern warfare, and we might regret that fact. What we should know, however, is that this kind of war has never been an adequate characterization of any actual war. The heroic war is what we’ve been told about, in the great narratives of war. The warrior is a creature of fiction.

A narrative can always leave out unpleasant details, and focus on the hero, that is: the individual. But it also cannot but focus on the individual. The narrative is the home of the individual, and a narrative without an individual is close to impossible. That’s why it is so hard to make a convincing anti-war movie.  A movie is a kind of narrative, and as such it needs to focus on the individual. But to convey the true horrors of war, it would have to focus on the masses: the peasants, not the knights. But who cares about peasants?