Netflix’s not too long ago launched romance Purple Hearts has been within the information for all of the unsuitable causes. Directed by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum and starring Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine, the movie has been watched for greater than 100 million hours on the platform and is on monitor to hitch the ranks of Netflix’s most considered content material.
But, one has to marvel if that is due to the story or the controversies surrounding it.
Purple Hearts has drawn criticism for propagating disturbing racist and misogynistic stereotypes. The movie’s one redeeming high quality? It displays the indignant, divided actuality of America and its therapy of non-white, non-male folks extra precisely than the filmmakers maybe meant.
Set in Oceanside, California, the story revolves round Cassie (Carson), an aspiring singer with diabetes who’s unable to foot her insulin payments, and Luke (Galitzine), a younger marine about to be deployed to Iraq for the primary time. The 2 are as totally different as chalk and cheese; Cassie is blue at coronary heart, touts liberalism and rails in opposition to misogyny and racism, whereas Luke is all crimson, conservative and the quintessential “white patriot” able to combat within the Center East.
Their first assembly crackles with mutual contempt and dislike, and issues don’t get any higher subsequently, however they nonetheless comply with deceive the army by marrying one another to reap marriage advantages. It ensures Cassie whole medical protection, together with insulin, and supplies Luke with further money so he can repay his debt to a drug vendor.
Rosenbaum claims that Purple Hearts is about selling moderation or centrism; that two polarising people can come collectively in like to take heed to and imbibe one another’s factors of view. When crimson and blue combine collectively, they flip purple, therefore the title of the movie. Nevertheless, the one change in perspective we see is on Cassie’s half.
Pattern this: A bunch of younger marines goes to a bar the place they assume being troopers entitles them to star therapy. They see Cassie who isn’t serious about courting troopers. One of many marines asks her: “So we’re adequate to combat in your ass however not adequate to the touch it?” His good friend (Luke) decides to attempt successful her over with allure (however no apology).
When Cassie responds testily, Luke lectures her on preventing for folks’s rights on Twitter whereas troopers like him go off to battle. And as if misogyny isn’t sufficient, there’s a beneficiant dose of surprising racist rhetoric within the combine too. A marine says: “This one is to life, love and looking down some goddamn Arabs, child!” Oh, and he pronounces “Arabs” unsuitable, by the best way.
Rosenbaum has defended the storyline by arguing in interviews that “for characters to develop, they should be flawed at first”. But the one character who seems to “develop” is Cassie.
The couple doesn’t have any significant conversations about why they imagine what they imagine, so there’s no stage set for average views. But, Cassie all of the sudden has a change of coronary heart, proven in her hanging the American banner from her balcony beside Satisfaction and Black Lives Matter flags. (This, in itself, is a unconscious show of the state of the US at the moment — that the concept of America is separate from LGBTQI and ethnic identities and rights.)
Moreover, whereas Cassie is a sufferer of America’s problematic healthcare system, Luke isn’t uncared for in any respect. If something, his white conservative identification permits him, a former addict within the debt of a legal vendor, to hitch the Marine Corps with out elevating any questions. He’s raring to go to battle, and when he will get injured, he comes again house having been afforded top-notch therapy and a Purple Coronary heart!
Differing political ideologies aren’t character flaws. Hundreds of thousands of individuals coexist with gentle to drastic political beliefs, lots of them in household settings. On American TV, we’ve seen Diane Lockhart and Kurt McVeigh on the Emmy-winning The Good Struggle, who marry one another with out compromising on their Democratic and Republican beliefs, and speak at size about their ideas. Their portrayal is a lesson carefully, as is the content material in Madam Secretary. In Purple Hearts, against this, the frequent evocation of harmful sexist and racist stereotypes, with out addressing them in any respect, is sort of propaganda-like.
Even worse? That is after the US army apparently sanitised the content material to point out the Marines in a greater gentle. Given how cringeworthy many of the movie is, one has to query the place the American army attracts the moral and ethical line amongst its recruits.
There’s a lot to criticise in regards to the movie. It units out to make a political assertion, which it will get very unsuitable. It doesn’t deal with any of the complicated socio-political points it raises by way of its characters; it simply leaves viewers with disturbing rhetoric that seems to be a reckless ploy to impress controversy somewhat than promote dialog.
However the place Purple Hearts succeeds spectacularly is that it unintentionally serves as a mirror to America at the moment, reflecting its rampant — and disturbing — prejudices. For that cause alone, it deserves to be watched.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.