Today, November 11, is Veteran's Day. The ABC network has planned a showing of "Saving Private Ryan" tonight. Per the agreement that the network has with Steven Spielberg, ABC cannot make any cuts to the movie. If they want to air it, it has to be shown unedited.
I suppose we should have seen this coming, but there are ABC affiliates in the nation refusing to air the movie tonight.
Why? They are scared of the FCC.
"Saving Private Ryan" is quite a movie. The first thirty minutes alone are incredibly intense. When I saw it in the theater, there were people who got up and left before the D-Day landing scene was over. They couldn't handle the gore. Even writing about it now, it triggers a memory of feeling nauseous, watching the marines attempt to make their landing on Omaha Beach.
I can recall two vivid emotions I felt as I watched this movie. The first was awe, as I could not believe that a scripted movie scene could be done as realistically as this one was. It was if I was at Normandy, watching live as this invasion took place. The second emotion was pure shock, that someone would actually have to go through that. I can't imagine being one of those soldiers, standing ready on the amphibious vessel, waiting for the go, and then watch as comrades start dropping from bullets as soon as the doors go down.
I've lived in times where war and combat have been things people told us about, at least until 1991. Even then, when there was an actual war in my life, the number of casualties stayed low. I'm stunned by 1,100 deaths in Iraq in the last eighteen months. How could I have possibly understood the thousands and thousands of soldiers that died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, or the wars before them?
I think it is a great idea to show this movie unedited over free television on Veteran's Day. It teaches us a great deal of lessons. First, we need to remember the people who went before us and the unbelievable courage they had, the things they did to keep this country the place of freedom that it is. Second, everyone should know and realize that war is hell. It is important that future generations see this type of thing so that when they are responsible for society in their adult years, they do everything they can in their power to avoid such a situation. War should always be a last resort.
Lastly, the movie can teach us individual lessons, depending on our family histories and what we know about history.
I am dumbstruck that those in control of television stations that have decided not to show this movie tonight don't know better. Yes, there is violence, gore and profanity in the movie. Welcome to reality. "Golly! Seems like they are shooting at us, those rotten guys..."
I fault the FCC here as well for not speaking up ahead of time and saying, look, there's a big difference bewteen a gratuitous boob shot during the Super Bowl and airing this movie. We see the relevance, and we will not respond to complaints about content. The article linked in this entry states that the FCC will not do that over fears of "censorship complaints." Way to toe the line, boys and girls.
I felt the reaction to the Janet Jackson incident in Houston at the Super Bowl was overblown, though I understood why Joe Dad would be upset at watching the half time show with his young kids and then suddenly having to explain why her shirt was torn off. No one knew it was coming. This is different. Knowing that the movie is being aired ahead of time and the circumstances around it lets people make an informed decision whether or not it is appropriate to watch. I don't think any suit at a TV station is qualified to make that decision for the people in their community.
Can't we have any special events in this country anymore without having to go through a litany of ridiculous judgments by people who have no right to do so? What has happened to the individual deciding what is best for them, and for their family?
There are rows upon rows of white crosses near Normandy, marking the graves of American soldiers who died there, during what a great deal of Americans believe to be this country's finest hour. I have a hard time believing that any of those soldiers would support the decision to pre-empt the best recollection of what they went through that day because it's "too realistic."
Their sacrifice deserves a little bit more reason, and a lot less hysteria.