Finally got to sit down and watch HBO’s Generation Kill last night, the miniseries based upon the Evan Wright book/Rolling Stone article. I only saw the first episode (out of seven).
It’s good, but I worry that it’s going to be difficult to watch or rather unpleasant. It also has the benefit of hindsight and I wonder what perspective the show will take. Will it look back with jaded eyes at the Marines?
The first episode is nothing more than introducing all the characters of the 1st Recon Marine Batalion. In a word it’s mundane. The first half introduces us to the world of the marines, where there’s not much going on except mustache contests, finding batteries, the disappointment that letters from America brings, etc.
They have been fashioned into the perfect killing weapon, or, as one of them put it, they’re “America’s pitbull dog.” Every now and again they’re let off the leash to inflict damage on the enemy. And yet, the country won’t allow them to do so.
Try as David Simon and Ed Burns might, most of the characters all blend into one homogenous blur – they’re ball bustin’ and crude, dropping dialogue that would make David Mamet proud. These marines are Men. Or at least that’s what we’re supposed to infer from their homophobia, racism, agression and frustration with not being allowed to go out and kill do their job.
They only welcome reporter Evan Wright into their camp when he reveals he wrote the Beaver Hunter column for Hustler Magazine. Until that, however, he’s insulted with every slander you could imagine for a “pussy, peace loving faggot” writer from some hippie music magazine.
Slowly over the first episode as the Marines prepare for the Iraq invasion a few characters stand out from the hive, besides the reporter; one assume they (among a few others) will become the lense through which Generation Kill is told.
There’s the awkward and soft-spoken First Lieutenant Nathaniel Fick, the nervous and talkative radio man Cpl. Josh Ray Person, and the anomaly in the group Sergeant Rudy “Fruity” Reyes. He’s fit, cares about fashion, eats sushi and vegatables and can’t wait to move back to San Francisco after the war. Obviously everyone thinks he’s a “fag.”
As the first episode unfolds from Camp Mathilda in Kuwait, the Marines are waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Until it’s time to roll into Iraq.
What struck me, given the recent revelations of the Bush Administration, is how unprepared, uninformed the Marines were. They had faulty equipment, they didn’t know who the enemy was, or what their objectives were going to be. When they came across an Iraqi Death Squad they didn’t have the intelligence in hand to do anything more than shoo them away. And when they encountered a group of Iraqis who’ve surrendered, instead of following the Geneva Conventions, they unsurrender them back into the desert wilderness.
All in all, it’s a promising first episode.