“I know a girl whose sister’s boyfriend was there when bin Laden was shot and he says that the stuff in this movie is all true!” This is the disturbing conversation I recently overheard during a preview for “Zero Dark Thirty.”
“Zero Dark Thirty” is an excellent example of the danger of being uninformed. The girl I overheard in the theater will probably see this movie and never question whether there are inaccuracies, which is a major problem because she will be only one of many Americans who do the same.
“Zero Dark Thirty” follows the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden and his eventual assassination on May 2, 2011. After an initial limited release, the movie came out in theaters last Friday topping the weekend box office.
While the movie is considered remarkably close to an accurate account of the capturing and killing of Osama bin Laden, it does create false impressions. The most contentious issue is the link made between torture methods and the discovery of bin Laden’s location.
After reviewing CIA records, several Senators, most notably John McCain, have denied that torture methods led to information relevant to the whereabouts of bin Laden.
Problematically, anyone who doesn’t follow the news will never know that there is reason to doubt the validity of the movie.
Complicating the matter is that the movie presents itself as a true account. The words “based on first-hand accounts of actual events” appear at the beginning of the movie, suggesting to audiences that the ensuing story is all true.
I do not judge the entertainment value of “Zero Dark Thirty,” but I do think it is dangerous to associate it so closely with true events. Which is more influential, a thrilling movie or facts?
It is alarming that Americans will likely come away from this movie believing Osama bin Laden was found because of information divulged during torture.
By connecting torture with useful intelligence information, “Zero Dark Thirty” glorifies, or at least tolerates, the use of torture as a valuable interrogation tool.
I believe the way we perceive the past has a profound effect on the future. In the future will Americans justify torture because they believe it is useful?
I hope “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t have this kind of power, but my experience with the girl in the movie theater weakens my faith in the average movie- goer.
I realize that when writing for a paper with a large pacifist and anti-torture audience that this article may seem irrelevant, but I think “Zero Dark Thirty” teaches an important lesson about the power of movies and the relationship between media and popular belief.
Do not be the average movie-goer; be informed.
-Mattie Lehman, Contributing Writer