Youtube user Storyteller presents his video American Sniper: Anti-War misinterpreted through a heavy use of visual juxtapositions. He uses an explanatory style to guide the viewers through the various layers he attempts to uncover. It should be noted that this videographic essay uses external sources as a stepping ground that creates a division between what critics believed the film American Sniper stood for and to what Storyteller believes is the true meaning of the film. In the former, Storyteller uses a variety of clips and tweets to form the current argument: people like Noam Chomsky, Howard Green, or even Michael Moore all believed that the film represented a sense of deep nationalism. Someone like Michael Moore would view this film as war propaganda.
Moreover, on the film’s surface, Storyteller agrees with this assumption. Various scenes throughout the film showcase the way war can instill a sense of national pride into a person which in turn leads the person towards risking his life to protect their nation. In contrast, the latter, Storyteller’s opinion, centers around the underlying message of the film: one cannot protect their nation while also wanting to protect their family. The main protagonist, Chris Kyle, believed in this ideology. If he could fight abroad for the freedom of his nation, he would also be protecting his family. Storyteller, then, uses these various clips to create a contrast between the two arguments.
Continuing, the use of graphics throughout the film act as a way for Storyteller to guide the viewers. In one shot, he uses a triangle to form the three points revolving around Chris Kyle’s ideology. This, of course, revolves around his desire to protect his family, to believe in God’s plans for his future, and to never quit these goals. In presenting these three different points, the video follows them with scenes that correspond with each point. One scene shows a younger Chris at church. Here, from a young age, he forms his ideology to follow God’s plans. Such an idea further informs the viewer of why he decides to join the war. In another scene, Chris looks at the news as he learns of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once again, this traumatic, national event triggers the ideology of religion inculcated in him from a young age. As he watches his nation, an imagined family, under attack, he realizes he must protect his family.
However, in joining the military to protect this imagined family, he leaves his immediate family at home. Here, the video creates a visual juxtaposition between scenes showing Chris fighting in the war while his wife cries for his return. These two scenes act as a turning point in Chris’s ideology. As much as he believes he is protecting both families, he can only choose one. This, in turn, triggers the video’s third point. Part of his ideology impels him never to quit from God’s plan, this plan centered around the protection of his family, his immediate one, and his nation. These two ideas create a sense of conflict for him, a sense of perpetual internal fighting.
The video further indicates this turning point by showing a scene of Chris watching a group of terrorist murder a mother and child who provided him with important information. Here, he must face the reality of this perpetual war. In protecting his own family back home, he must experience the destruction of another family. This juxtaposition further demonstrates the deterioration of his own ideology. In another scene, he shoots a terrorist. After doing so, one would think he would have sensed some sort of relief, yet he is unable to engage with his own feelings. Instead of feeling a sort of happiness, he experiences an anticlimactic event. Here, he realizes he cannot save everyone.
Furthermore, following this scene, Storyteller presents newsreels of President George W. Bush. In using these type of clips, the video wants the viewer to engage with multiple sources. Although a dramatized version of Chris Kyle’s life, the film still portrays the horrors of war. In using these clips, the video wants to remind the viewer of this underlying connection. Because not everyone may understand this connection, it can be easy for many to view this film as war propaganda; however, a closer look further demonstrates the internal conflict that soldiers go through especially once they return home. His death—he is killed by a veteran he worked with—further emphasizes the video’s message of the destruction that such wars cause.
It is interesting to note that the video relies on voiceover as a means of describing the video’s argument. This video would be different if it removed such an element from its style. In one sense, the film’s direction would be lost; however, the video could still use descriptions to guide the viewer. Regardless, the video achieves his goal in presenting its argument alongside the various visual juxtapositions.