Time Magazine’s Battleland blog ran a photo gallery yesterday titled “I Shot 29 Bullets and 212 Images.” I imagine this is a quote from the combat photographer who took the pictures. The title immediately reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from Full Metal Jacket. It’s the scene where the marines had just taken Hue city and were giving interviews to the media. Most of the marines appear jaded, uncomfortable, sarcastic, or aggressive in front of the camera.
But not the “combat correspondent” who stands squarely in front of the camera, weapon held in the crook of his elbow so that he appears in complete control of it, camera hanging around his neck. He boasts:
“Well it depends on the situation, I mean, I’m here to take combat photos, but if the shit gets too thick, I mean, I’ll go to the rifle.”
Every other marine giving interviews was being honest. It is only the combat correspondent who said the words he thought he was supposed to say. Polished, with just enough aggressiveness to warrant praise but not so much to invite scorn. Whenever I hear someone boast about how brave or hard they are (or will be), I like to quote the combat correspondent.