Does ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ glorify war?
Here’s what I learned watching TV this month: Todd Palin can speak, and he’s an excellent shot, presumably from killing so many moose over the years. On the NBC reality contest “Stars Earn Stripes,” he quickly earns the nickname “Rambo.”
“Next time I go to war,” one actual military operative says admiringly, “I want Todd Palin on my side.”
So it goes on this controversial series, which pairs minor celebrities with the likes of Navy SEALS and Delta Force operators, and sends them on “missions” that simulate actual combat. It’s essentially a live-action video game — structured, as these thing go, a lot like “Dancing With the Stars.” And a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, has asked NBC to take the show off the air, because it “expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.”
Given how much war permeates American entertainment, those complaints feel a little overwrought. Two years ago, the video game company Activision put out a live-action ad for “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” It showed a range of non-soldiers — a young woman, a middle-aged hotel concierge, Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Kimmel — running through a war-ravaged arena, shooting and throwing grenades. The tagline was, “There’s a soldier in all of us.”
The question is how we honor that soldier — and whether living through combat vicariously is an act of respect or delusion.