Clint Eastwood’s film American Sniper was popular–but not with everyone. Critics of the film said it “suffers from major myopia” because it “draws a direct link between the events of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.” Others argued that it glorified Chris Kyle, “a remorseless sniper” who viewed the Iraq War “as both just and enjoyable,” while Eastwood reduced Iraqis “into mere props, either helpless civilians or evil terrorists.”
These reactions to the film might explain why a student at the University of Missouri was outraged that it was going to be screened on campus. But after some deliberation, the solution the Missouri Students Association appear to have worked out is the right one.
The student, Farah El-Jayyousi, wrote a letter to the campus newspaper The Maneater complaining that Eastwood’s film “glorifies the mass murder of Iraqis” and “tells the story of military occupation and oppression from the viewpoint of the oppressor.” She goes on:
Showing this film will create an even more hostile environment for me and other Arab, Muslim, South Asian and people of color on this campus.
I am requesting that this film not be shown and that it either be replaced with a film that does not glorify violence or support existing systems of domination and oppression, or an event addressing American Sniper and similar films and media texts using a critical lens.
The story caught the eye of conservative media outlets like Breitbart and FrontPage Magazine (“Muslim Brotherhood Student Leader in Missouri Demands Ban of American Sniper”). In the end the student group behind the event issued a statement explaining that the film would go on as scheduled, along with other programming as well:
MSA and other student organizations will utilize the screening to create new conversations about the issues presented in the film. We will use these conversations to help cultivate an inclusive campus climate. We have already begun to work with many students and administrators to address points that were brought up in discussion. Additional programming to educate the campus on these issues will be announced as plans come together.
Instead of pulling the film or simply ignoring the complaints, the students met with Muslim leaders and discussed the best way to present the controversies surrounding the film. And the school is reportedly “working on a long-term agenda for responding when similar situations arise in the future.” Let’s hope this kind of approach will be a model.