soldier crawling on hands and knees through a trench under a cloud of poisonous gas with dead soldiers in the foreground and background

Dulce et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

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Do many Hollywood films glorify and romanticize war and soldiering?

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Despite Wilfred Owen's claim to the contrary, many people, as a result of romantic stories set against a backdrop of war—most especially World War II—might believe that war is a glorious endeavor and that dying for one's country is a sweet and fitting sacrifice. Movies like Pearl Harbor (2001), starring Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck, turn a handsome lover's death into an opportunity to turn to the open arms of another handsome lover. It doesn't feel cold or calculated, and the characters' motives seem to be sincere and their sense of loss real, but instead of choosing to deal with the real horrors of war (as a film like Saving Private Ryan does to a much greater degree), the movie uses the romance to heighten the audience's emotions. One could argue that it is easier for an audience to identify with or understand the struggles of one or two individuals in war, but the extent to which romance is the main focus of such war movies really draws our attention away from the toll war takes on human life and refocuses it on the toll it takes on one set of lovers. The lovers' loss is real, too, but there's something about focusing on it that romanticizes war as more of a relationship hurdle rather than something much, much bigger.

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