The New New Republic Judges Book by Its Cover, Embarrasses Self

January 16, 2015

I think this standard, laid out by Scott Tobias, is a pretty reasonable one:

Tobias is subtweeting the new New Republic, which ran this amazingly dumb essay on the new film, American Sniper, by Dennis Jett, a Penn State professor.* I say it's amazingly dumb, because Jett has managed, it seems, to totally miss the point of the movie he's discussing. Here's Jett:

Bradley Cooper, who plays Kyle, seems beset by uncertainty and moral anxiety in the above scene. But anyone who has read Kyle’s autobiography of the same title knows that his bravado left no room for doubt. For him, the enemy are savages and despicably evil. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more.

It's weird that he would write this, because that's more or less how the film lays out Kyle's character. The movie's not quite as sneeringly derogatory toward Kyle as our good friend The Professor. But it is rather clear throughout the film that Chris Kyle's struggles upon returning home—indeed, his explicit refusal, at first, to return home once he has completed the required tours of duty—have nothing to do with remorse for killing a whole bunch of terrorist scumbags. Instead, he's upset that he has abandoned his men and that he can't keep killing terrorist scumbags. There's a whole riff on this in the film: Chris Kyle's like the kid from The Blind Side, insofar as his overriding motivation at all times is to protect his friends. This is not some subtle message hidden in the contours of the film's subtext. Quite the contrary. It is pretty explicit text. I saw it a month ago, so I can't be one hundred percent certain on this, but I believe he actually says something to the effect of "I stand by all of my kills and only regret having to leave." Something along those lines, anyway.

So, The Professor has totally botched this review. I mean, he hasn't even come close to ascertaining the meaning of the film or the motivation of its lead character. How could this have happened? He's a professor of international affairs at a prestigious university! What could have gone wrong, Professor?

I have not seen American Sniper. But if the trailer is any indication ... 

Whoa whoa. Whoa.


Hold on. You're telling me that you wrote a whole essay about a movie that you haven't seen? Let's just make sure I read that right.

I have not seen American Sniper. But if the trailer is any indication ... 


... have not seen ...


... not seen ...

Now, to be fair to the dear professor, this isn't just a failure on his part. Every jackaninny with a keyboard** thinks they're well-placed to weigh in on things they know nothing about. The publication of this idiotic tripe is an institutional failure on the part of the New Republic, which, as you may or may not remember, recently purged its longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier. Wieseltier got the boot because the mag's new owner, Poke Button Pioneer Chris Hughes, is a dope who doesn't understand how the media works but has a lot of money thanks to his amazing ability to be assigned as Mark Zuckerberg's roommate.

After this bit of excellence, I admit to being really excited to see what TNR's new crack team of amazing contributors has to offer the national dialogue. Perhaps a roundtable about the Oscars in which they talk about the merits of the films up for best picture based solely on 30-second television advertisements? "Well, this spot for Selma shows that it's a timely masterpiece, but if the ad for Grand Budapest Hotel is any indication, it'll have stiff competition!"

Anyway. Don't review movies you haven't seen. You'll just make yourself look like a big ole dumb dumb.

*The essay is accompanied by the greatest correction of all time, by the way:

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 9.50.45 AM


They are really doing a bang-up job over there.

**E.g., Sonny Bunch, Executive Editor of the Washington Free Beacon.