American Sniper: America’s Most Deadliest and Ethnocentric Sniper “American Sniper” (directed by Clint Eastwood) is a film autobiography about Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), the deadliest sniper in American history. Several characters are introduced such as Chris’s wife, Taya Renae Kyle (played by Sienna Miller), his brother Colton Kyle (played by Max Charles), his comrade Marc Lee (played by Luke Grimes) and many more, The film exhibits many anthropological, psychological and sociological theories such as Cultural relativism, postmodernism, behaviourism, and even conflict theory.
The Anthropological Perspective: Cultural Relativism and Postmodernism In Franz Boas’s idea of cultural relativism, it states that “an anthropologist cannot compare two cultures because each culture has its own internal rules that must be accepted”(Haskings-Winner, Collishaw, Kritzer & Warecki, 2011). Throughout the film, you get to see the life of Chris Kyle from his prepubescent years to his mid to late thirties. Kyle was born and raised in texas; until the end of his life, he was a committed republican who espoused the American values of “God, Country, and Family.
The environment and religion he was raised in influenced him in an ethnocentric view of America; he believed that his country was the most superior and righteous. It wasn’t just him who felt this as well. Due to the media and American propaganda, the majority (if not all) Americans believed that Iraq was the “bad guys. ” In the scene where the TV shows the attack on the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers, the media has successfully convinced all of America that there is a “Good vs.
Evil” battle, where America stands on the “good” side while Iraq harbors the side of “Evil”. This shows how influential media propaganda can really be since in reality, the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with the Iraq. Another school of thought that is expressed in the film is Postmodernism, which is “the belief that it is impossible to have any ‘true’ knowledge about the world,”(Haskings-Winner, Collishaw, Kritzer & Warecki, 2011). The only character in the film to question his ethnocentric beliefs is Marc Lee (played by Luke Grimes).
He begins to notice that his beliefs about the “truth” may not have been actually correct, and he begins to question whether or not he is fighting for what is actually right. His confusion is shown to the viewer in the scene where Marc and Kyle were talking after Kyle’s team was dismissed after a strategic talk to take down “The Butcher” (played by Mido Hamada): Marc: “’I just want to believe what we’re doing here. ‘ Chris Kyle: There’s evil here. We’ve seen it. ‘ Marc: ‘Yea, well, there’s evil everywhere. ‘ Chris Kyle: ‘You want these mother f*ckers to come to San Diego or New York.
We’re protecting more than just this dirt. ‘” (American Sniper, 2015. ) This scene shows the contrast between Marc’s and Chris’s views. Chris believes that every Iraqis person is “evil” and “savage” by calling them “this dirt,” which implies that they are underdeveloped and closer to nature than civilization. However, Marc begins to realize that “there’s evil everywhere”, and that it is wrong to label a culture as savage or underdeveloped since each culture has its own set of internal rules that must be followed (according to Cultural Relativism. ).
In conclusion, the events that occur in the film further proves Boaz’s theory of Cultural relativism to the viewer. In the time of Chris Kyle, cultural evolution was the theory that everyone believed in. However, in modern day times, we’ve come to become more aware of how the media uses propaganda to label the Iraq as “evil”, when in reality, they are just another culture with different sets of rules and beliefs. The Psychological Perspective: Behaviourism For the duration of the film, there are several scenes and situations which act as examples of behaviourism.
As we watch Chris Kyle experience the traumatic and scarring moments during his four tours at Iraq as a sniper, we get to see his psychological behaviour change over time. On his first tour, Chris faces a disturbing situation where he has to shoot down a young Iraqi boy and his mother because they were going to throw a grenade at his peers. After, Chris displays an unconditioned response of terror and trauma; reactions that many sane individuals will show in this kind of situation.
However, as he goes on his next tours, he continues to face similar situations where he has to shoot someone dead. Eventually, he becomes conditioned to the killing and begins to feel no emotion after killing someone with his sniper, which shows that Chris Kyle eventually becomes conditioned to kill without emotion. Another example of his is when Chris reacts aggressively towards the dog that appears to be “pinning” down his child or when he becomes agitated when the sound of a lawnmower is heard. Through his days in the battlefield.
Chris has developed a conditioned response to act alarmed and on his feet at the sound of a sudden noise or aggressive action, with gunshots and death of comrades as the unconditioned stimulus. An example of a conditioned stimulus is then shown with the Butcher’s drill, paired up with a unconditioned stimulus (the child’s screams) which gives Kyle a conditioned response of distress to the sound of a drill being used at an auto shop. His wife, Taya Kyle also begins to notice how war is changing him, and constantly begged him to stay at home.
When Taya gives birth to their first child, Taya pressures Chris into checking his blood pressure by the doctor. It was revealed that Chris Kyle’s blood pressure after two tours rose up to 110/20, which shows that he has become very paranoid. In other words, there are many moments in American Sniper where Chris Kyle is conditioned to a certain stimulus due to his scarring experiences in war, which prove to change his psychological behaviour in many drastic ways such as high alertness to sudden sounds and even a high blood pressure.
The Sociological Perspective: Conflict Theory In American Sniper, there is a conflict between the USA and the terrorist group,”al-Qaeda. ” Karl Marx’s conflict theory studies the “competition between different groups for power… as a result of the constant struggle between those who have economic and political power and those who do not,” (Haskings-Winner, Collishaw, Kritzer & Warecki, 2011). In this case, the American government (Those who have economic and political power) is being challenged by the Iraqis terrorist organization: “al-Qaeda” (Ones without power).
Karl Marx believed that those who are powerful try to keep it away from the ones who do not, and they alienate the powerless, which inevitably creates conflict between the two groups. In the movie, the al-Qaeda wages war against the United States by bombing the Twin Towers and World Trade Center. They create this conflict because the United States has the most military and economic power in the world, which creates a power imbalance between the two countries.
This makes the Iraqi feel alienated and owerless, which consequently gives them the motivation to fight back. In conclusion, many of the sociological, anthropological and psychological theories were expressed through specific scenes that led to a character’s psychological development (Mainly Chris Kyle’s), as well as many social conflicts that led to the War on Terror. Also, the film displayed the theory of Cultural Relativism by showing us the extremely ethnocentric Chris Kyle and contrasting his ideology to his ally, Marc Lee.