Are creators responsible for how audiences react to their work? That is the question Zach, Stephen, Rodrigo, and Matthew discuss this week, along with comments for listeners like you and Zach’s thoughts on American Sniper. It’s the start of the new Zach on Film!

Story Links

American Sniper blamed for hundreds of threats against American Muslims:

Listener comments from Zach on Film subreddit:

Zach on Film: The Birth of a Nation:

Zach on Film: High Noon:

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About Author

Zach is a recent college graduate who’s love for consuming media is surpassed only by his love for creating it. He has a firm belief that if we could all just play with LEGOs for 30 minutes a day the world would be a better place. If those two statements don’t tell you everything you need to know about Zach, follow him on Twitter at @zwoolf.


  1. 1st – keep at it Zach. I love talking about films too, don’t quit.

    2nd – I don’t think film makers should ever have to release a notice about their films. Doing so tries to craft how people perceive and think about the film, that type of thing should be left to the individual. How many times have we heard of film makers who say “I didn’t mean to do this or I meant to do that” and the unexpected result is awesome. A film is made for some reason, all art is. But just because a film maker thinks a film is A doesn’t mean 100% of the public will think the film is A. Many will think it’s B, some will think it’s Z or Zed. There has to be creative freedom to make films, to tell stories from all angles. Why should the makers of this film make a statement when it’s the public who are stupidly spewing hate who really need to explain their hatreds?

  2. This was a great podcast. Keep it up! Interesting, thoughtful discussion about not just the film in question, but about the role of film in our culture. Also, the new logo looks awesome.

  3. Is there Creator Responsibility? Yes, without a doubt when you taken to account the creator’s intent. For example, Birth of a Nation by Griffith intended to create a propaganda film to make the Negro “Public Enemy Number One”. The plot and visual presentation fed into the fears of white America who believed it to be true and shaped the perception of those who never had interacted with a Negro.

    Regarding American Sniper, the Major Spoiler reviewers appeared to understand this movie was about PTSD. The viewer of the movie who wants to believe ALL of the people of the region (Middle East aka North Africa) are terrorist, will view the movie with an eye towards validating their beliefs. The creators of American Sniper, who I hold accountable are the director and writer…far more than the actors. For it is those creators, which shape the character they want be seen in the final edit of the film.

  4. I think this was a good question for Zach to have asked, and all was reasonable in the discussion where it came to blame being cast upon the director or actor. I was however appalled at how easy, and with so little basis, (Mathew’s mention that Chris Kyle said he’d killed civilians in his book) that Steven and Rodrigo, whether out right or by oblique manner, called Navy SEAL Sniper, Mr. Kyle a war criminal. Hearing the two of them so quickly jump to that conclusion was very upsetting, as I had always felt Steven and Rodrigo were well thought men and would never cast aspersions of that magnitude without being sure. At a point Steven stopped the cast to set something straight, and I was hoping it was to at the very least set the record straight that he wasn’t calling Chris Kyle a murder, but it was something meaningless, having to do with mixing up an Audie Murphy reference. I also held out hope that once Zach had seen the film, he would set the record straight, or that Steven or Rodrigo might wish to retract or restate comments they had made–but again I was let down.
    With this, other statements by Steven, from a Top Five saying that he suspected the people he liked least from high school had probably joined the Marines, I have felt very much like I’m in a place where, if not for Political Correctness, I’d be shunned. An off hand remark says much more about what you thing deep down, than a remark tailored by PC mentality.
    In case you’d like to see the actual words of Chris Kyle..understand what his mission really was, then please take the time to read this excerpt from his book. You’ll see some quotes I’m sure you’re already partially familiar with, but I hope you’ll see that an entire quote should be read, not just a parsed one to understand a person’s real meaning.

    “The Marines were flooding up the road, marching north to liberate the country from Saddam Hussein.
    It was my job to protect them. My platoon had taken over the building earlier in the day, sneaking into position to provide “overwatch”—prevent the enemy from ambushing the Marines as they came through.
    I looked through the scope. The only people who were moving were the woman and maybe a child or two nearby.
    I watched our troops pull up. Ten young, proud Marines in uniform got out of their vehicles and gathered for a foot patrol. As the Americans organized, the woman took something from beneath her clothes, and yanked at it.
    She’d set a grenade. I didn’t realize it at first.
    “Looks yellow,” I told the chief, describing what I saw as he watched himself. “It’s yellow, the body—”
    “She’s got a grenade,” said the chief. “That’s a Chinese grenade.”
    “Take a shot.”
    “Shoot. Get the grenade. The Marines—”
    I hesitated. Someone was trying to get the Marines on the radio, but we couldn’t reach them. They were coming down the street, heading toward the woman.
    “Shoot!” said the chief.
    I pushed my finger against the trigger. The bullet leapt out. I shot. The grenade dropped. I fired again as the grenade blew up.
    It was the first time I’d killed anyone while I was on the sniper rifle. And the first time in Iraq—and the only time—I killed anyone other than a male combatant.
    It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it. The woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn’t take any Marines with her.
    It was clear that not only did she want to kill them, but she didn’t care about anybody else nearby who would have been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children on the street, people in the houses, maybe her child . . .
    She was too blinded by evil to consider them. She just wanted Americans dead, no matter what.
    My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul. I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.
    Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy “savages.” There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there.
    People ask me all the time, “How many people have you killed?” My standard response is, “Does the answer make me less, or more, of a man?”
    The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives. Everyone I shot in Iraq was trying to harm Americans or Iraqis loyal to the new government.”

    Excerpt From: Chris Kyle, Scott Mcewen & Jim DeFelice. “American Sniper (Enhanced Edition).” HarperCollins.

      • Yes it’s an extrapolation, which is why I used the word ‘obliquely’ in the comment above. When someone doesn’t want to say something they believe, it’s still often between the lines. It’s a great way to deny things and turn it back on the one who pointed it out. It’s also a way for someone to completely get wrong another’s intent–and if I have then I apologize.
        Steven, in your mentioning of the ‘rules of war’, which would be more specifically, the ROE, Rules of Engagement, it came across as your belief that Chris Kyle was just murdering civilians and throwing all rule aside as he did so. That is absolutely untrue. As stated in the excerpt I attached to my previous post, a sniper’s job is ‘overwatch’, which means that they are specifically tasked to observe the battle field, spot and ‘verify’ enemy activity and intent, then eliminate the threat to the allies of said sniper; which is also mentioned in the excerpt. Chris Kyle protected Americans and Iraqis alike. It was a duty that he took very seriously, which led him to leave his sniper rifle behind and kick door with the Marines he was protecting because that, at the time, was a more effective way of keeping them safe. A sniper has to call in each suspicion of enemy activity and try to get other eyes on the situation to verify the threat. The job of sniper is one of the very most controlled in the entire military. So I hope you can see where it would strike a cord with me when a man, such as yourself, who is very thorough in making sure that he passes along correct information, would not put anymore effort into verifying these matters than to take Mathew’s word for it that Chris Kyle was ‘killing civilians’. This further bothers me, if this is your thought then you most likely believe that everyone else assumes the same about Chris Kyle, that he was completely disregarding the Rules of War–which causes me to ask myself; do you believe that all the people standing on the side of Chris Kyle would have no problem with him or our fighting men and women to rampantly kill civilians? I have a huge problem with that, and if I knew of any in our military had committed such an act I’d make sure they were brought up on charges before a courts martial.
        Where I felt Rodrigo seemed to be of the same opinion was in his description of Sherlock Holmes and the specific mention of how very effective he was at doing his job. The point seemed to very much link the job competence of this fictional character to the job competence of Chris Kyle with his sniper rifle. This wouldn’t have been an issue if that comparison wasn’t immediate followed up by murder and war criminal. Now if there wasn’t any kind of link intended, then how in the world would the such a term as war criminal find its way into the point being made?
        If it seems that I’m being over sensitive to all of this, then you’re right. There are many Americans, my Brothers and Sisters that are safe at home with their families whose lives were literally saved by Chris Kyle’s protection.

        • From your excerpt, the person with the bomb is not a civilian because they engaged in active hostility, and thus Kyle wasn’t breaking rules of engagement or the rules of war.

          In the conversation, I believe I said, if soldiers in war films are shown killing civilians (breaking rules of engagement) and a movie is glorifying that – and there have been movies that do depict that, then I do have a problem with that particular message. So, if you took that broad message as me saying Kyle was a killer of civilians, so we should shun/hate/etc, then I am sorry if I wasn’t clear. Anyone who listens to any of our shows, know I have a great respect for those who have served in our military.

          • Steven, I respect you, Rodrigo and all on your shows..which is the biggest reason that I was struck so hard by what seemed to be implied. I have listened to a great deal of your podcasts and I think they’re great..well thought out where it comes to opinions given. I appreciate all the effort you and everyone puts into keeping the shows going week after week, and especially you, Steven. I was very likely too over sensitive to this whole thing, but the biggest reason is because in a way, listening to you guys converse, I felt like a friend. With all the controversy over this particular subject, I felt very let down when there seemed to be no effort to at least straddle the middle of this story. Steven, I have heard you say that you respect our military, but this suddenly gave me the feeling that you were saying that purely for public consumption. I’m not accusing you of that at all, just telling you that’s the sudden feeling that I had.
            Again, you guys do great work..and no matter what, as much talking as you all do, there’s no way to avoid, at some point, saying something that can be taken wrong. It’s more me than you, I admit that. Someone very close to me lost her husband, he was a sniper and protector of our troops.
            Thank you, Steven, for your time in communicating on this matter, and thank you for your support of our military.

          • Yeah, I’ve heard about that Mathew..I’ve tried to look up info on that, which sources that came from. All I can find is it seems to trace back to one reporter Nicholas Schmidle of The New Yorker, who got it from three contradicting stories told in a hotel room late at night, after a lot of drinks. There are unsubstantiated claims that he said it on tape but I couldn’t find that at all..I’d say if it was out there to be had, some journalist would have included it in reports to be heard. Stupid things are said when you’re drunk..and in this day and age, a stupid thing said once can be spread far and wide..gobbled up and propagated.

            There’s also the story of Chris Kyle supposedly shooting a couple of carjackers in Texas..reports said that it was in fellow Navy SEAL Marcus Lutrell’s book. I bought the book to check that out, and yes, that claim was in there. So there’s no doubt that Chris Kyle told that story..and no evidence that it was true. Lack of evidence doesn’t prove something one way or the other, but I’d be inclined to believe that this story was an exaggeration of something that happened, which didn’t result in the deaths of anyone.

            Chris Kyle wasn’t a perfect guy, no one is..which is something widely accepted and embraced in today’s society.

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