In a review of Patriots Day on The Verge titled, “The Bizarro Big Business of Mark Wahlberg and National Tragedy,” Kaitlyn Tiffany struggles with the pressing question of why Americans like movies in which terrorists are portrayed as the bad guys. “Watching Patriots Day in a crowded theater in lower Manhattan,” Tiffany writes, “it was bizarre how well the script broke for applause”:
This movie caters to a jingoism that the political right has spent the last eight years defending from the withering gaze of an incredibly enlightened president, but even New Yorkers found it in themselves to cheer for what is now the winning team.
What reason could Lower Manhattan have to root against Islamist terrorists?
After some drivel about director Peter Berg’s “neo-patriotic” (why is it always “neo-“?) moviemaking — and his tool of oppression, Mark Wahlberg — Tiffany proposes that “It is, broadly, shameful and weird to fantasize about what you would do in the midst of death and destruction — but with Mark, you can.”
But there is nothing at all “shameful” about the “fantasy” of helping the innocent when disaster strikes. Every kid who reads heroic tales such as Harry Potter (by the end of the novels, Harry is without his parents, mentors, and several friends) or watches films such as Tangled (in which Rapunzel is kidnapped by a witch, jeopardizing an entire kingdom) has in some way participated in a fantasy about heroism amidst tragedy. This is human nature — the grease on which societies move.
But Tiffany is not interested in this. All she can see that is that the cops are white:
[Patriots Day is] not interested in examining the complications of relying on travesty and violence to build community, and it’s certainly not concerned with what has become a sinister pattern of romanticizing and exploiting resilience. What it wants to do mostly is give us another Wahlberg hero — another unassuming white guy who reveals himself in the worst of moments to be exceptional. What an interesting year to argue that a white man is likely to be the person who’ll save you.
To sum up then: Communities should not grow stronger by opposing enemies; resilience must not be “romanticized”; heroes must not be white everymen; and — of course — Republicans are the true villains of every piece.