Should John Wayne have Killed bin Laden?
I’d like to think that you could “suspend your disbelief” and join me on this flight of imagination; but if you’re not a baby boomer, I suspect you barely finished reading the title before you left.
As they say: Youth is wasted on the young.
If you saw “Zero Dark Thirty” and you’re a boomer, you have to wonder what if John Wayne had played the Seal Team 6 soldier who killed Osama bin Laden?
We know John Wayne the actor was that larger-than-life American. Once more, Wayne was instrumental in “pushing” our heroes into mythic figures (I thought briefly of using Errol Flynn here…his Englishness not withstanding).
Think of John Wayne as Davy Crockett in the 196o movie “The Alamo.” Did he not continue the exaltation of Crockett for baby boomer teenagers that started with Crockett played by Fess Parker for baby boomer children?
In the Alamo, John Wayne’s Crockett is run through by a lance and then blown up as he ignites the powder magazine to kill more Mexicans. But in the tradition of Fess Parker’s Crockett, who swings his rifle at the Mexican soldiers after running out of bullets, we never see either one die, because we want them to live on in the American spirit.
But movies were for entertainment…and historical accuracy had no business in show business! What could be better than sitting in the movies at fifteen with popcorn and John Wayne as Davy Crockett? Hollywood history brought us back to the movies again and again. Remember Errol Flynn as the “fictitious” George Armstrong Custer?
So imagine if John Wayne had played the Seal Team 6 member who killed bin Laden. It would have gone something like this: Wayne confronts bin Laden alone. They’re face to face. Bin Laden kicks the gun out of Wayne’s hands and pulls out a big knife. Wayne hits bin Laden with a right cross and pulls out his knife. Then they grapple for a while before Wayne finally kills bin Laden…as the stirring music reaches a crescendo. And you stuff your face with the last of your popcorn.
I know. That was then. And this is now. And thanks to Kathryn Bigelow, her “now” proves that the truth can be more dramatic than fiction as she did in “The Hurt Locker.”
Zero Dark Thirty reminded me of an old TV show called “You are There,” in which Walter Cronkite was the commentator for re-enactments of historical events, such as the assassination of Lincoln. Like that show, I felt I was there as Seal Team 6 assaulted bin Laden’s compound. I lost a sense of time, a sense of anything but the moment. And it was stunningly dramatic – with or without popcorn.
Still…John Wayne killing Osama bin Laden? If you’re a Baby Boomer, it’s hard to resist that picture. And if not Wayne…how about Flynn?