If a military supported romance drama with Twitter-level gender politics sounds like a terrible movie then you aren’t wrong. In this episode we take a deep dive into the Netflix film Purple Hearts, the Pentagon’s role in supporting romantic movies, and the question of whether the gender war is state sponsored.
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The Pentagon and Romance Movies
We have looked at a few other films in the category of military supported romantic dramas, or DOD-sponsored romcoms. Operation Christmas Drop and USS Christmas, both of which are holiday romances with a heavy military presence, are especially woeful. I have been unable to get out of my head the scene in USS Christmas where the seven foot tall Aryan love interest teaches the dippy journalist how to walk down a flight of stairs. These are clearly aimed at women, and yet they’re so condescending.
Then there’s Pitch Perfect 3, which is a musical comedy with a military-romance twist. You may recall, that’s the one where they rewrote a scene where our main military character comes to the rescue of two of the singer ladies. In the original draft he was apparently too aggressive and confrontational, so they made him more protective yet sensitive, i.e. perfect boyfriend material.
There are various things that bother me about these movies – not least how the romantic male lead is almost always tall, blonde and somewhat teutonic-looking. I know that this is a convention in US film and TV, blonde is seen as innocent and virtuous whereas dark haired signifies a bad boy, or bad girl. One has to wonder how much influence Jews really have over the industry given this fairly long-standing prejudice.
Then there’s the underlying message – that all women are really looking for is a tall man with a good job, and they want to be bossed around and told what’s what. While this is actually true with some woman – and some men, of course – there’s a very conventional, heteronormative, apple pie and church ceremony dimension to all of these love stories. The version of romance that they’re selling is typical of American entertainment, and it is tightly pigeon-holed.
Then there’s the gender dynamics. In all of these films it is the female character who has an arc, who changes throughout the course of the story. The male characters, not so much. You could say this is insulting to women – they have to adapt to men, rather than vice versa. Or you could say it’s insulting to men – they are simple and incapable of change. Or you could say it is insulting to both, which it is.
Then there’s using romance as a means of attracting women to the military – either as recruits or as advocates. The fetishising of men in uniform is long-standing, obviously, but these stories go beyond mere visual objectification because they contain a strong emotional component – however simply and weakly conceived. These films not only encourage women to sign up, but even more than that they encourage women to see military men as sexually attractive, and therefore politically supportable.
As such, in these cases the violence element of the violent psychosexual fantasy is only implied – because you want to fuck these men, you should support them killing people (but we never actually see them killing anyone). There is no combat in any of these movies, of any kind. But we do see weapons, missiles, fighter jets and so on, so the implication of violence is frequently present on screen. I admit, I have not gone through these movies closely to note all the phallic imagery in these weapons, but I’m sure now I’ve mentioned it you won’t be able to unsee it.
This is a new development in the military-Hollywood relationship – I cannot think of any example prior to Top Gun, and that’s an outlier in this respect, in most 90s and 2000s movies with DOD help the main character is married, or there is no female love interest. But with the arrival of streaming services in the 2010s catering to niche markets, the ‘women in their 20s and 30s with cats but no boyfriend’ demographic is now receiving targeted content.
What was previously the preserve of daytime soap operas and adaptations of Jilly Cooper novels is now an entire channel – Hallmark’s network is full of this crap, and they have worked with the Pentagon on several projects. While Pitch Perfect 3 got a full theatrical release, all the other films in this new category came out primarily or completely via streaming services.
Because single women don’t go to the cinema alone? Maybe. I have to say, as someone who has almost exclusively gone to the cinema alone, it isn’t a great place to meet single women, so perhaps they’re onto something.
Purple Hearts (2022) and Purple Hearts (1984)
The latest entry in this category landed on Omaha Beach, i.e. Netflix, last summer. Purple Hearts (2022) should not be confused with Purple Hearts (1984), a movie which was denied DOD support. Bear with me – it’s not my fault that there are two movies with the same name.
The earlier film is about the Vietnam War, and the DOD database says:
DOD declined request for filming on a Navy hospital ship. Appears that time precluded opportunity for making script changes. However, the Marines decided to send Maj Pat Coulter and his new relief, Maj Fred Pack, to the Phillipines at production company expense, to serve as technical advisors, despite a DOD ruling not to provide technical advisors. One of the very few positive Vietnam movies ever made to date, though no explanation why a Navy Doctor would accompany Marines into combat. No file.
However, there is a file – in the David Robb collection there’s a file from the Marine Corps office, which also included a bunch of DOD documents from Don Baruch and the like. Among the problems they had with the script?
– Trading drugs for supplies and equipment
– Lovemaking aboard a Navy hospital ship
– Patrols north of the DMZ
I admit, I haven’t seen this film so I will have to watch it because it sounds like they ended up making a lot of the changes the DOD wanted anyway, even without official support. Leaving aside the Phoenix Program and trading drugs, note that they did not want any sex to be taking place on ship. Other notes also mention female nudity on board the hospital ship, and the Chief calling a Lieutenant ‘Honey’. As we’ll see with the new film of the same name, things have changed.
Another mildly worrying aspect of the file on the original Purple Hearts is a Navy memo recording how they’d reached out to the FBI to have them run a background check on someone involved in the movie. This was chased up, and the response came back that Chuck Riley at the Bureau couldn’t find anything, and couldn’t go further without opening a formal case. I mention this because we know from the file on Public Enemies that the FBI are still doing this – they did checks on Christian Bale, Jonny Depp, others involved in that movie. The FBI may have stopped calling everyone Communists, but they’re still spying on Hollywood.
When it came to the new Purple Hearts, I first became aware of this because the Marine Corps posted about the filming on their social media accounts. It struck me as important because the Marine Corps actually moved out of Hollywood a few years back because ‘Hollywood is interested in making movies, not Marines’, and while they maintained a small liaison office at Camp Pendleton they didn’t work on any big productions for a while.
That has reversed, according to the documents from more recent years, and they’ve set up again at the Oppenheimer building on Wilshere Boulevard, with the other branch entertainment liaison offices. This was the first movie I’d heard about them being involved with in years, so I alerted Rog and he put in a FOIA request for documents on Purple Hearts. Of course, the request didn’t come back until after the film had come out, but now we have them so I watched the new Purple Hearts. And I’m pleased to say it’s a horrifying ogre of a film, simultaneously ugly and dangerous.
Our main character is Cassie, the daughter of an illegal immigrant, who lives in Southern California. Her accent is neither immigrant nor Southern Californian. But ignore that, because she’s working in a bar and writes music, and her awful band also play at the bar.
Like everyone at the bar listening to her band, Cassie is suffering, but instead of lame covers of songs that were originally lame, her affliction is Type 1 diabetes, which she was diagnosed with several months earlier. You see, this is why we shouldn’t let all the illegal immigrants in – they have their children here, then the children get sick with their immigrant diseases. Anyhow, Cassie is struggling to afford insulin but instead of trying to get a better job she just works in the bar and writes shit music.
One night, a group of Marines including Luke, our male lead, are in the bar being served by Cassie, and one of the Marines makes a bunch of sexist remarks, leading to an argument between Cassie and Luke.
This scene annoyed the bejesus out of me. For one thing, Cassie is stood there in a ‘the future is female’ t-shirt, a slogan popular among the sort of twitter feminist that Cassie evidently is at the start of the story. This slogan was the invention of a feminist who advocated for getting rid of 90% of the male population and only keeping the rest for breeding purposes, i.e. it’s no different to a swastika. Consider how easily that slogan has been normalised by people who would normally object to gendercide, certainly if it was men trying to wipe out 90% of women.
Then, the idiot Marine says some stupid, offensive things, leading to the side conversation between Luke and Cassie. Cassie calls the behaviour ‘casual misogyny’, when nothing the guy says is hateful, just disrespectful. The constant dressing up of anything a man does that a woman consider wrong as ‘misogyny’, a term that means hatred of women, is another worryingly normalised trend.
This leads to a bargain bucket gender politics exchange between Luke and Cassie, but the undercurrent is that they’re attracted to each other – the conversation is obviously flirty. So, are we supposed to take gender politics seriously, or dismiss the gender war as the product of mere sexual tension? While I’m certain that a lot of the things said in the gender war are the result of some kind of thirst or frustration, to reduce the whole phenomenon to that is Freudian and stupid.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this scene sets up the rest of the enemies to lovers story. Like Cassie, Luke is also struggling for money. A former heroin addict, he owes a bunch of money to a dealer. He overhears Cassie suggesting to a friend of hers, Frankie – a fellow Marine of Luke’s, that they get married, for the financial benefits. But Frankie is already committed to his love interest, so Luke suggests to Cassie that they get married before Luke deploys, with the intention of getting divorced a year later. Luke can pay off his drug debts, while Cassie can pay for her drugs. He’s off the needle, while she’ll be back on it. The irony of having a war on drugs backdrop to Luke’s money problems at the same time as Cassie can’t afford the legal drugs is quite funny, but I think it may have been lost on the film-makers themselves.
This pair of ding dongs get married, but not before Luke tells Cassie what she is and is not allowed to wear at the ceremony – laying down the law early on, putting that gendercidal bitch in her place. Bizarrely, the original outfit is actually more conservative than the semi-transparent wedding dress she ends up in, when Luke was going for the opposite.
As a side point – this opening act of the movie is all about them trying to make their marriage seem plausible, even though they only just met. But Marines are well known for marrying strippers that they met the previous weekend, there’s nothing unusual or suspicious about what they’re doing. It’s a textbook Camp Pendleton marriage.
After the wedding they go to a bar, where dipshit Marine starts making racist comments about killing Arabs as soon as they get out to Iraq. This leads to an argument, because Twitter feminist Cassie can’t believe anyone employed and trained to kill Arabs would talk so openly about killing Arabs. Luke reassures her, and they pretend to make up in order to keep up the appearance of being happily married.
That night, on the base the night before Luke ships out, he admits he is scared about deploying and about what will happen with their sham marriage. So Cassie fucks him, and immediately abandons all her Twitter feminist ideology. She casts aside her ‘future is female’ t-shirt and replaces it with Luke’s uniform jacket.
That’s where the film stopped being at all interesting to me, so the rest of it is basically Luke gets injured by an IED and Frankie gets killed, which made me happy because his endlessly cheery smile was creeping me out. Meanwhile, Cassie is at home realising she’s in love with Luke after all, and writing a song about wanting the Marines to come home. The song goes viral, helping launch Cassie’s record career.
Luke gets shipped home in a wheelchair, and with Cassie help and support he recovers, while she continues her songwriting. Once he’s out of the chair Luke beats up the drug dealer he owes money to, but the dealer shops him to the Marines, who arrest Luke for the fraudulent marriage. He pleads guilty, says Cassie didn’t realise she was violating military law (which is a total lie), and is given a six month sentence.
Cassie and her shit band sign for a record label, and after a big show at the Hollywood Bowl she rushes off to prison to see Luke before he begins his sentence. They realise they are in love with each other after all, rendering the marriage legitimate and Luke’s falling on his sword utterly pointless. The end.
Is the Gender War State Sponsored?
Naturally, this is a movie aimed at women, so there has to be an element of the female lead being really talented, it’s just that no one recognises it yet. I have seen a dozen or more movies with this exact character element, whether it’s singing, dancing, gymnastics, they’re secretly a great detective, whatever. It is clearly designed to be ego flattery and identity politics, telling the women watching that nothing is their fault, they’re actually really smart and talented, it’s the rest of the world, and especially men not realising how amazing women are at everything, that’s to blame.
Then there’s the romantic element, whereby she starts out as a typical gender warrior but gives all that up once she and the ex-drug addict Marine take the D-train to bone town. As though all women need is a good fucking. Again, this is double-sided in its nastiness, implying that men should simply makes themselves sexually available to women on demand in order to stop them complaining. Rapey towards men, patronising towards women.
On top of that we have the upshot of the story, whereby Luke sacrifices himself to protect Cassie, while she fucks off and starts her record career. And this is somehow a happy, romantic ending. To be fair there is also a brief bit of them on the beach after Luke gets out of prison, but it’s still really weird to me. He lies to the Marines, taking the full blame himself, thereby kinda fucking up his life while she escapes punishment entirely.
I know, this is how the justice system works, especially in the US where they lock up 15 or 16 times as many men as women, while women all over the news complain about men not being held accountable. But it’s still troubling, given the fairly vicious and blunt gender politics in the rest of the movie.
All of which provokes the question: is the gender war being manufactured, and is it being state sponsored? The answer to both questions is yes, and Purple Hearts is simply a recent example. While the overt identity politics of the 2010s was about race, religion, ethnicity, immigration and so on, the politicisation of sex, and in particular of sex crimes (whether alleged or proven) gained a lot of noise. It is clear to me that this is the next battleground being fed to us by the ruling class, around sex and gender and identity of that kind.
Perhaps the best example of this is the true crime genre, which is aimed at women and is clearly designed to provoke feelings of fear and hatred towards men. Almost every show, article, podcast is about a man who hunts women, either as a sexual predator or to kill them. Any gender combination outside of this is essentially ignored.
And this is entirely deliberate, manufactured and in many cases state sponsored. I got hold of hundreds of pages from the FBI’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs office from the 2010s, covering magazine articles, documentaries and other factual projects they were asked to support (and in most cases, did support).
The recurring theme is sex crimes – these hacks like nothing more than a horrible story about 40 underage sex slaves in New Jersey. In many cases the journalists or TV producers approached with a specifically gendered framing – one openly admitted she was interested in stories about female FBI agents arresting men who have harmed women.
So they are very consciously gendering crime (as though it wasn’t already) and using that to fuel social fragmentation. They pick stories that feed into the men vs women vs men vs women dynamic, then exploit that dynamic they’ve helped create. It’s sick, and just as predatory as the people they’re making their documentaries about.
Another dimension to this is the ‘strong female character’, which as I noted in the Captain Marvel episode usually means a violent female character, often emotionally cold or even sociopathic. And do these ‘strong female characters who are just as capable of violence as any man’ use that violence against women? Not very often. In keeping with Hollywood traditions, and the real world, it is men who suffer by far the most violence in these movies.
The good thing is that some viewers are cottoning on to this, or at least to how the double standards cut both ways. One of the best examples is the second Wonder Woman film, which had some degree of British military support. Like most of Patty Jenkins’ work, the film is quite explicitly misandrist – every man in the film is a liar, a creep, a sexual predator, a manipulator.
The only exception is Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s love interest from the first movie. Only he died in a moment of self-sacrifice at the end of the film (because men dying is romantic for women, or something), so in the sequel he’s a ghost. And you can’t fuck a ghost, or at least there isn’t enough friction to climax. But not to worry, Wonder Woman tells the ghost of Steve to merely possess the body of a random guy, which she then fucks. Which is rape. But is depicted as romantic, because it’s a guy being raped by a woman.
Imagine if in Ghost, the ghost of Patrick Swayze simply took over Whoopi Goldberg’s body and used it to fuck Demi Moore. Imagine there was no discussion of consent. I am absolutely certain it would not be seen as romantic – it would be seen as a male ghost effectively using one woman to rape another.
As I say, audiences did notice this and whenever something about the movie gets posted on social media you will see comments about this twisted, sexist, rapey plot point. I don’t think anyone’s put this together with the rest of Patty Jenkins’ work yet and realised who and what she truly is, but give it time, people will get there.
The bigger point is to recognise that identity politics can be weaponised in this way, to make you believe that only these demographics commit these sorts of crimes – whether it’s rape, terrorism, drug trafficking, whatever – and hence only them who deserve punishment. It can be used to advance the state’s agenda and enhance their power.
Recall how anti-terror laws were used to justify incredibly intrusive surveillance against those who might blow up a plane, which has now become intrusive surveillance of everybody in case they do anything. Now consider how, for adult men, the presumption of innocence has been systemically eroded in recent years, and consider how quickly that will become everyone, and then the presumption of innocence is gone forever.
The Marine Corps and Purple Hearts
Having established that this movie is as poisonous as a dumpster fire of old rubber, why did the Marine Corps agree to support it? One reason is surely that they haven’t worked on many big movies lately, and even their support to Top Gun was basically OKed by the Navy without anyone asking the Marine office.
Looking at the summary slides they sent to Marine Corps Communications HQ covering 2018 to 2021 they worked on Toughest Jobs in America, Making a Perfect Donut, SEAL Team, Call of Duty, Jack Ryan, and a feature film the details of which are completely redacted throughout, so it may not have been released yet (at least at the time the documents were given to me). There’s a lot of reality shows, documentaries, smaller projects but the biggest thing they worked on was Activision’s Call of Duty, though it’s not clear which of the recent games they were helping on.
So that explains why they were willing to cooperate with the dimbos who made Purple Hearts, a $3 million dumped on Netflix movie. One of the attachments to the released emails outlines the project, which is describes as ‘love story between Marine and local’, begging the question ‘local what?’. The summary goes on to say why they supported Purple Hearts:
Movie tells the tale of a squared away Marine who knows he is doing wrong but is conflicted by morals vs. policy regarding his alleged fraudulent marriage. He does it to save a woman’s life, then accepts responsibility for his actions and is punished under the positively highlighted UCMJ. He and the woman fall in love and deal with his combat wounds while navigating how to again prove that he is an outstanding Marine. Showcases that the Marine Corps hold its people accountable despite the nobility of the infraction and highlights how Marines who make mistakes can recover and find value and meaning.
As you can see, this is about saying that the system works – even though there are Marines who do wrong, they do it for the right reasons and are held accountable. This is the same message they give us on physical and mental healthcare, dealing with the military’s sexual violence epidemic, the occasionally prosecuted war criminals, and so on. Don’t worry, we’re handling it.
There are two sets of script notes in the released documents, one from James Dever, the former Marine turned technical consultant who worked on Purple Hearts, and another from the Corps themselves. Dever had some interesting things to say, including that:
Cassie is never really at risk of prosecution. No county or district attorney would charge her, because it’s essentially a petty crime and not worth their time. Only cases of marriage-for-Green card attract the attention of Federal prosecutors.
They made no changes in response to this, it seems, so I guess they just decided to keep the fake jeopardy. Then there’s the scene where idiot Marine starts talking about killing Arabs. Dever commented:
– As currently written, our Marines are deploying to Iraq, not Afghanistan
– The expression “A-Rabs” is not jargon generally used by Marines who have been trained-up for deployment. When speaking derisively they use the term “Hajis” to speak of Iraqis specifically and Middle Easterners in general, as well as some darker-skinned Asians such as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.
– Cassie’s point regarding the Afghans is correct… but only relevant if our Marines were actually deploying to Afghanistan.
– IF Cassie were to make a similar point about “Hajis” and Iraq, she could argue that the term is racist and disrespectful of the Iraqi Muslim culture.
The script also had a bit about Luke sneaking pills while at the hospital, to which Dever responded:
Opiates aren’t left lying around in a Naval Hospital any more than they would be in any other hospital. If Luke is sneaking pills, it’s likely because he’s been squirreling them away rather than taking them when the staff brings them in.
This whole bit about Luke stealing opiates does not appear in the movie. Major Josef Patterson, director of the Marine Corps liaison office, initially responded to a treatment, so he could only offer general feedback. He wrote the three main requirements for support and his thoughts on the treatment:
(1) Present a reasonably realistic depiction of the Military Services and the DoD, including Service members, civilian personnel, events, missions, assets, and policies. We are talking accuracy here. Is fraudulent marriages a thing, probably. Do services members get in trouble for it, yes they would. Therefore you are accurate, however, portrayal of such behavior by the key character reflects negatively on the Marine Corps and its values which would likely not receive favorable endorsement. This can be countered by other behaviors or themes but will likely require some serious changes.
(2) Be informational and considered likely to contribute to public understanding of the Military Services and the DoD; it does but the understanding I walk away with is that fraudulent marriages are common, drug addicts join the Marines and it doesn’t look favorably on who we recruit, the transformation following becoming a Marine, and the overall character of the military. There is a large stereotype that this type of person is all we recruit and that service members are those people who had no other options. In reality it is quite the opposite, especially these day.
(3) Benefit Military Service recruiting and retention programs. I don’t think this story as it is portrayed at this time is in the best interest of supporting attracting people to join…unless they want benefits.
However, when Patterson got the script he was much happier, saying ‘This is a great story and I loved it’ before offering up more detailed notes. Among the problems was that the script had Luke and his unit shipping out to Iraq, but there are references to the Taliban. It seems the writers didn’t know the difference, so the Taliban references were dropped.
Most of his notes concern legal protocols and the likes, but a couple are worth highlighting in full. After Frankie’s death in Iraqistan at the hand of Tal-Qaeda, Patterson wanted them to beef up Luke and Cassie’s reaction, writing:
Pg 60: Losing a marine in combat is the worst thing someone can go through, it’s worse than watching your own parents suffer with cancer, it’s worse than most anything you can think of. It would be nice to show this as Luke has to tell Cassie about Frankie. It would also come up once he is home and has time to dwell on it. This is accomplished later in the script when he is talking about running and he and Cassie are discussing what Frankie would say but I feel he would be much more damaged and/or motivated by Frankies memory. It changes you completely…could be for the better or the worse depending on the type of person you are. Unimaginable pain but if you wish, I see an opportunity to really pull some heart strings here.
There is quite a bit of dwelling in the finished script, really playing up the death of Frankie – a fairly incidental character whose apparent friendship with Cassie is never established. So there’s a bunch of payoff, but no setup. Patterson should have twigged this and asked for changes earlier on, to make Frankie’s death mean more. It is his job, after all.
The other major note concerns the scene with the racist language, with Patterson writing:
By page 35 it is clear that the Marines are being portrayed as a bit racist and uneducated. We are trying to break these inaccurate stereotypes. Contrary to common belief, even the young guys are extremely educated, very conscious of culture, and can even speak language by the time they deploy. Marines themselves, are very diverse and by default get along with each other despite race and what not. It is highly unlikely they would be out voicing “killing A-Rabs.” They are adept and usually know more about the enemy and local population and culture than do the people living there. That is what separates us from the other branches and why we do so well. We are a smaller branch than the army and can therefore commit resources to ensure our forces are educated. Lastly, the DoD screens heavily for positive diversity and inclusion topics and stray away from scripts that overly depict stupidity. If someone in the script must be portrayed this way…he or she is quickly corrected by the other characters to show that the culture in the service is in fact accurately portraying service members the way they are…inclusive. The Taliban aren’t looking for the white, black, or brown kid to kill. They just want to kill Americans…we think the same way…it is exactly what has kept me on active duty so long.
This is quite hilarious to me – not least because this dialogue remained in the script, though it’s only one character who says it and he’s black, so apparently that makes it alright. But it’s more the underlying logic – Patterson has no problem with the Marines looking forward to killing people, as long as they don’t talk about them using racist epithets. Presumably this is what is meant by ‘the DOD screens heavily for positive diversity and inclusion topics’. The Arabs are welcome in this new, multi-cultural world, but we’re still happy to kill them.
One final thing about these documents – they mention the new Avatar film, which it seems had Marine Corps support. I have not seen it yet, and may not see it at all, but I am left wondering whether that is the major feature film project that is redacted in the other documents. It would certainly add up, in terms of a filming timeline, so while we learned very little by watching Purple Hearts, we have likely solved one little mystery today.