Caution! 'American Sniper' Is a Dangerous Movie

Mateo Romero

I was looking forward to seeing American Sniper. I took my brown Native high school-aged son to see it. I’m a fan of Clint Eastwood’s acting and directing, and his Sniper is a beautifully shot and directed action packed flick. But after his film, I spent the hour’s drive home explaining to my son why I thought the movie was dangerous and corrosive to the American people.

This is a tense war movie that looks great. But just underneath the film’s sexy veneer is a shockingly racist ideology of hate and death that is advanced by the white male sniper Chris Kyle.

Kyle is the ideological descendant of Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. He belongs to an elite white male cadre of swinging dick meat eaters who will solve the problems of invaded brown people with a bullet. Iraqi and Syrian combatants are called “fuckin’ savages.” Direct statements of racism and death may or may not reflect the realities of the modern U.S. military. But they do give rise to false dichotomies that dehumanize the enemy and make it kinda fun, cool and necessary to kill them.

For the moment, Sniper is the fave mascot of the reactionary right wing of white America. Its visual beauty softens the harsh fact that the movie glorifies death, racism, hatred, religious prejudice, sexism, colonialism and moral corrosion. It presents some great ideas about caring for and protecting the people of your tribe. If you’re a white Christian American, that is. Women, minorities, kids, Muslims need not apply. They’re part of the bullet-to-the-head fix.

Why is this film so important in its depiction of outdated and corrosive white conservative male values? Because it is a time of great change and social movement in the world. The time of white American male rule and hegemony is coming to an end. And American wingnuts don’t like it one bit.

A classic function of horror and sci-fi movies is to code racially and socially taboo stories in the guise of fantasy. Sniper follows this formula. It’s a snapshot into the psyche of a retrograde white conservative male patriarchy. It lets us glimpse its fears and desires (loss of power and male potency) as well as its hopes and desires (white men will kill their way back to the top).

Americans as a whole are too ignorant of the country’s past colonial violence against Native and African Americans and current world affairs to really question uncomplicated black, brown and white narratives of war. The audience largely clapped at the end of the movie.

This is potentially a time for great social change and growth in America and the world. Dated stories of white male privilege and uber violence are divisive and corrosive to this positive change.

It’s up to us as Indigenous Peoples and as Americans to question simplified stories glorifying violence and racism and sexism. It’s time to educate ourselves about the violence of this country’s past, and to come together as a people to build a stronger, inclusive and more unified America.


Mateo Romero is an enrolled tribal member at Cochiti Pueblo. Born in the Bay Area, he completed his BA at Dartmouth College and his MFA in painting at UNM. He is an award -winning artist who has exhibited both nationally and internationally. A former SAR Dubin Fellow, Romero lives in Pojoaque Pueblo with his potter wife Melissa Talachy, and their sons Rain and River. He shows his paintings at Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe.

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tmsyr11's picture
From someone who has largely gained and taken advantage of this American or "Colonial System" of by his birthright, his education, given health/welfare, economic opportunities, and his established enterprise, it appears to be hypocritical to pull 'race' 'Custer' 'religion' 'sexist' 'societal-ills' all onto the shoulders of a Hollywood movie! From the Hollywood production industry and how THEY brought to all of us, BrokeBack Mountain, we now have Sniper - The Movie. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> What are your views on the rash of beheadings, executions, violence against islamists, Tribal muslims, christians, peace volunteers, etc. in the Middle East? Do you care to comment on the 25 recorded Islamic-Muslim conflicts in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Why are there NOT MORE 'moderate' islamists, muslims being RECORDED as speaking out AGAINST the extreme radicals and world conflicts happening?
boujoie's picture
Indeed! My 45 year-old daughter told me, today, that she found this film so upsetting that she sobbed for 2 straight hours after seeing it. Her message is: don't see it if you're at all open, which she was/is. I can't even watch the trailers. I believe these films are loaded with the dark forces' attempts to glorify hate, war and killing as a way to open doors for them to claim our souls. There's a huge battle going on, in case you weren't aware, between the forces of light and the forces of dark. We MUST be more discerning about what we let into our energy fields. We MUST choose LOVE and THE GREATER GOOD FOR ALL instead of separation and dehumanization. With Blessings to Us All. Joie Bourisseau, enrolled member of the Mackinac Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians.
AaronPike2010's picture
nokomis's picture
Clint made a fool of himself talking to an empty chair at the Republic National Convention and now he has been restored. Is this the Clint Eastwood style? As a Nation we need to acknowledge that we are anti-Islamic and we need to admit that we have a problem. I refuse to watch it because it exemplifies white male arrogant behavior, which is what's wrong with America's pro-war, pro-gun, and bully culture.
WiHi Napa's picture
I registered to leave this comment so I hope you all know how important it is to me. I have seen American Sniper and I agree with this article one hundred percent. The film failed in so many ways; not just realistically, but cinematically as well. It omits the truth and panders to a soap opera audience. The war scenes were the only real draw here. It's also important to remember that Chris Kyle was killed by a fellow serviceman. The movie didn't even touch that fact; yet it gave us all a bunch of propaganda style images of the character Chris Kyle struggling with his....what exactly, Mr. Eastwood?? What is your characters inner turmoil really? He doesn't put it out there like that, but sits in his director's chair and openly mocks reality. The ending was a true shock to me. *SPOILERS* The fact that we don't see the death of Chris Kyle in the movie is a slap to the face of his memory. He died in a very tragic way, regardless of who he was as a person, he was shot by one of his own after taking the lives of so many "insurgents" he was gunned down in his own home state of Texas by a fellow serviceman he was trying to help. Eastwood had a chance to enlighten the average American of the hell of combat and the misery of living with PTSD, but he coped out. I lost a lot of respect I had for him, but I have to remember he's one of those older men of a "bygone" era; although it's perpetuated through ignorance.
WiHi Napa
Jimmy Dial's picture
What a load of liberal nonsense. And, quite obviously, not a veteran. This is a well written article of mush.
Jimmy Dial
Mike Randles's picture
First off as a writer you should know the meaning, definition, and use of words just because someone calls someone a savage doesn't make it a racist term . The fact that you are making this movie about a DECORATED U.S. NAVY SEALs auto biography in to a hate spewing prejudiced story means that first of all you obviously didn't really watch and understand what the moral of the story was about you also don't know that he was trying to help VETS deal with the difficulties of coming home Just because some one is in a war zone and is taking the lives of people doesn't make him a killer he is just doing his job just like the guy who works the counter at a 7/11 he has a job and there are things people do in a job that they hate but its part of the job just because he didn't have a problem with pulling the trigger to protect his fellow country men doesn't make him ok with killing he knew that he would have to answer for the lives he took and he was at peace with that you really need to think about what it is that you are writing before you publish it you don't know what kind of hell it is over in the war zone and things can get emotional and heated when you are getting shot at and have friends die in your arms sav·age (săv′ĭj) adj. 1. a. Not domesticated or cultivated; wild: a savage animal; the savage jungle. b. Not civilized; barbaric: a savage people. 2. a. Vicious or merciless; brutal: a savage form of warfare. b. Characterized by or showing hostility; unforgiving: savage criticism. 3. Extreme in strength or degree: savage heat. n. A member of a people regarded as primitive, uncivilized, brutal, or fierce. tr.v. sav·aged, sav·ag·ing, sav·ag·es 1. To assault ferociously. 2. To attack without restraint or pity:
Mike Randles
Michael Kaindl's picture
Yeah, that "Butcher" character with the drill, that hung dead bodies to be dismembered, and cut off women's arms. . . he was no savage. The movie depicted the dichotomy of our peaceful existence at home and the savagery of war overseas, and showed that enemy bullets don't care what race or religion you are. The only satisfaction he got from his job was that he prevented Americans in harms way from being killed. Did we see the same movie?
Michael Kaindl