ARMY WIVES: Aristotle Would Have Watched TV

Those who are looking at this blog for only reference to art house films, and heavy documentaries will be disappointed. Television is what is closest to the average person. The average person is where morality and ethics derive.

I have been tracking the development of ARMY WIVES since its first episode. Inherent in its story line related to war, knew it would of necessity deal with ethical themes. ARMY WIVES is an ensemble cast. It is the story of four women, and a man who are spouses of active duty army personnel. They are raising their families on an army base in the USA. They are of different socioeconomic backgrounds and they become friends. Last night’s episode deals with loss, grief and redemption on the domestic front.

Season 4, Episode 7, May 23, 2010 10 PM PDT Lifetime:
In this episode in the ‘A’ story line a pregnancy is lost by a couple who dearly wanted another child. The husband, who has seen active duty, has the strength to explore his own grief and feelings of inadequacy to support his and his wife’s pain. The second army wife, the closest friend of the woman who has lost her pregnancy, is struggling with issues around her husband’s absence in family life. He is often altered in his character, related to his secret missions. She is choosing between divorce and living through it and moves to a compromise -- an acceptable action for her moral tension. The third army wife, a nurse cum paramedic, struggles to reconcile the loss of her son to a reenlistment and fears that he will not finish college, ( loss of a dream for her progeny), and may have worsened post traumatic stress disorder or die in combat. The fourth Army wife, who has lost her eldest daughter to a bombing on domestic soil some episodes ago, now sends her daughter off to college. She chooses to regain something she lost, when she became an army wife, her own education. She dropped out of Harvard Law School and now wants to return to study law at the university near the army base where she lives.

Information flow and changes in technology, medicine, and ecology shift at warp speed. It is important to see how artist and media synthesize and influence morality in this shifting milieu. In particular, the genre melodrama is closest to the hearts of the majority of the people. In many ways, television is the equivalent to the Greek Poetics of Aristotle - yes the Greek plays. At the end of the day, many look at television and deal with aspects of their own lives that would be too painful to access without the distance of the screen. This is one of the ways that film and television work. It is also the reason that bioethicist and clinical medical ethicist especially need to understand how film and television communicate.

Season 4, Episode 7, May 23, 2010 10 PM PDT Lifetime

(For more on Film/Bioethics on this site see "Lighten Up" - slides 29 - 36, and in the reference slides at the end for Aristotle, On Man in the Universe, Walter J. Black. New York, 1943.)


LA MISSION : Prototype for the Peace Genre

I am not sure how much power a film has to have to not be slotted into the “Ethnic Film” genre, which restricts the market of its distribution. I am sure that the Bratt Brother’s LA MISSION (2009) has more than enough power to properly title its theme and genre. Written and directed by Peter Bratt, LA MISSION is about transitions from violence to an agent of Peace. Starring Ben Bratt, (co-producer) the main character embodies the film’s subtitle quote of a Spanish expression, “from the thorn emerges the flower.”

Peace in the world of bioethics is a universal “good,” and as such can only be held by the humanity as a whole -- not the individual. LA MISSION is about corralling passionate spirit and channeling it toward Peace. This film is not only about a Latino family, a black woman, low riders, gay teenagers, gentrification, gang bangers, medicine men, indigenous peoples, parents struggling to do what is best for their children, women who are victims of violence, city bus drivers , healthcare systems or healthier lifestyles; though it stars all of these.

The Bratt brothers are part of some exceptional company in the Latino Ethnic film genre - LA FAMILIA, LA MISMA LUNA, PAN’S LABYRINTH and THE SEA INSIDE, to name a few. But they have also created a cross cultural-cross genre film. Like other brilliant Latino, and black film productions. LA MISSION is not yet marketed broadly, so its universality is stealth. It’s hard to get a film like LA MISSION made, harder to get it promoted. Its audience is limited by an R rating; a bias against content tamer than the DVD’s being watched on most highschoolers hand held devices at lunchtime.

LA MISSION’s script is seamless down to the meaning of the posters on the walls of the lead character’s garage. It makes a strong argument for the writer-director hyphenate. The visuals are stunning, as would be expected from Japanese-American cinematographer Hiro Narita, set in the hues of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. The acting is gripping at every level also not unexpected from Benjamin Bratt but the rest of the cast pushes even his bar. Finally, this film is hot! It has all of the essentials of the best Hollywood drama. However, La Mission also goes to the head of the line for films important in clinical ethics. It looks at cross-cultural concerns in health promotion, violence prevention, and grief mediation.

In the case of LA MISSION I suggest we take a page from other parts of the struggle for Peace; we create a movement to pass the word. Assign it if you teach. Demand it in your local theater. If it is playing near you and you have 10 bucks to spare, see this movie. Defy the attempt of last century film marketing and critics to dice and slice our humanity. Pass the word -- the Peace film genre has arrived and its prototype is LA MISSION.

LA MISSION. 35 mm. Directed by Peter Bratt. USA. Screen Media Ventures. 2010 (117 min)