“A brave performance by Bruce Jenner anchors Kathryn Bigelow’s feminist dramatization of the life of transgender Navy SEAL Christina Kyle”
Background on the film
You might remember the movie American Sniper from the year 2014 about the most lethal sniper in American history. It generated a lot of controversy. Filmmaker Michael Moore called snipers cowards. Actor Seth Rogen compared American Sniper to Nazi propaganda. Comedian Bill Maher called Real Life American Sniper Chris Kyle a “psychopathic patriot.” Politician Howard Dean called the film’s viewers “very angry men,” clarifying that they are probably in the Tea Party. The film seemed to capture America’s feelings about the Iraq war.
How things have changed since in four years. Hillary Clinton became America’s first woman president, easily beating Sarah Palin in the election. ISIS took over the Iraqi government in the waning days of Obama’s presidency. Clinton sent American troops to Iraq. Clinton then instituted the Equal Right to Combat Act that mandated quotas to make America’s combat units at least 50% female.
The ERCA, of course, was a complete failure. Operation Hug ISIS failed when ISIS captured large numbers of female soldiers and released videos of them being raped.
Enter Christina Kyle
Christina Kyle was the first female sniper in America’s history to record at least one kill. She was also the first transgender soldier on the front line in American history. She somehow racked up a staggering 101 kills in her brief time in Iraq and earned the nickname “Badass” from her combat girlfriends.
Upon her return to America, Christina Kyle was quickly hailed a hero by feminists for fighting Iraq’s rape culture. Christina wasted no time writing a book called American TranSniper, and a famous photograph was taken of President Hillary signing the book. It was only a matter of time before feminist filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow made a movie that won an Oscar for Best Picture.
Critics have praised American TranSniper for its feminist message. Michael Moore called Christina Kyle “brave.” Seth Rogen compared American TranSniper to a really good PBS special. Bill Maher said she was a hero for killing Muslims. Howard Dean said its viewers are empowered women, clarifying that they are the base of the Democratic party. The book even inspired Sheryl Sandberg to write her own book called Pull the Trigger encouraging young women to embrace their killer instinct, join the military and become four-star generals.
The Plot of American TranSniper
We first meet Christina (played by Bruce Jenner) as she’s peeing over a hole in the dirt. Her penis is floating in the breeze, leaving the viewer to wonder when her sex change will be complete. Next Christina takes aim at her commander officer. She mutters “sexist pig” before putting her rifle down. She then writes “GIRL POWER” on the side of her helmet and draws a peace sign.
The film’s first battle scene takes place in a chaotic sandstorm. Groups of overweight white female soldiers are running up to members of ISIS and giving them bear hugs. One long bearded member of ISIS is shown leading captured female soldiers to a large cage.
The camera zooms up on Kyle’s face as she mutters that she wants to end Iraq’s rape culture once in for all. After several misfires (where one male American soldier is shot in the head) Christina finally finds her target, who has just pressed record on his video camera.
Next we see Christina at Iraq’s first lesbian bar. She drinks, smokes, and drinks some more before hooking up with one of the most feminist lesbians there (Lena Dunham). Dunham’s character even gives Jenner some LMR before finally saying “fuck it” and dropping her army fatigues in a gender-neutral bathroom stall. This sequence perhaps provides the most literal possible metaphor for gender equality in the military.
Jenner, who had to drink and eat heavily for the role, is superb in the film’s numerous sex scenes that are contrasted by her willingness to pull the trigger and fight Iraq’s rape culture. Full of bitchiness and stern looks early on, her voice seems to soften as she recites the Equal Right to Die in Combat Regardless of Gender and Race Act (the ERDCRGRA) after morning reveille.
Perhaps the film’s most humanizing touch is its willingness to show Christina pumping her fist after someone calls her a “hero,” as if the word is both empowering and gender-neutral. The visual and editorial choices discreetly reinforce the clash between the fun of modern warfare (it’s like a first person shooter for women) and the violence of Iraq’s rape culture. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Lorde, serves to heighten the drama as Kyle racks up kill after kill.
Back in America
Back in America, the film focuses on President Hillary Clinton’s obsession with Christina Kyle’s kill count. Hillary is especially worried about whether Iraq’s style of rape culture will spread to America. In one particularly dramatic scene at the White House, Clinton asks Christina whether she can take out Bill Cosby as well as Paul Nungesser. Christina simply responds, “I need to get back to Iraq.”
During the film’s climax, Clinton is informed that ISIS has defeated our forces in the Third Battle of Fallujah. After losing her temper, Hillary finds a way to end Iraq’s rape culture once and for all. The screen fades to black just as a nuclear bomb is dropped on Baghdad. What’s especially ironic, as President Hillary would later point out, is that Sarah Palin would have done the same to those bastards if she were elected president.
The reason why Christina Kyle got a sex change
Despite the brilliant cinematography and themes, the film glosses over the real reason Christina Kyle became a woman as remembered in Christina Kyle’s memoir. Born Joe Smith, Smith dreamed of becoming a Navy Seal after seeing American Sniper.
Built like a linebacker, Smith easily passed the Navy SEAL fitness test. His mandated essay about rape culture did not get a passing grade though. Ultimately he was disqualified from the joining the SEALS because he “simply didn’t have tits.” He was simply “too masculine.”
He later met the woman who would take his place in the SEALS, a “5’2, 200 lb. bitch.” He finally realized what he had to do in order to join the SEALS: get a sex change. He changed his name to a feminine sounding version of his hero, Chris Kyle.
While the circumstances of Christina’s death add a note of tragic urgency to the film’s matter-of-fact examination of rape culture and violence, the moment itself is left off screen. Instead the closing credits recount how Christina’s boyfriend violently raped and murdered her after finding out she was born a man, though the veracity of these claims are still widely questioned among a small group of “hate sites” on the internet.
The viewer is told that rape and violence happen because of men and we are then left with Christina’s famous quote:
If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons, the Fourth will be fought with curling irons and blow jobs.
Read More: The Many Problems With American Sniper