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PURPLE HEARTS: A DANGEROUS DISTORTION OF REALITY

It is abundantly clear that we are living in precarious times. Climate change, a long-standing worldwide pandemic, and widespread misinformation and conspiracy theories are just a few of the present challenges we’re facing. Moreover, the media has attempted to display these issues from the lens of the content creator’s personal beliefs and how profitable that work can be. Thus, considering the current divide and hostile environment of the US political sphere, the movie Purple Hearts was released as a solution to the ever-growing political clash between ideologies. However, did it succeed?

What Is It About?

Our titular characters include Cassie Salazar and Luke. Cassie is a struggling musician that cannot afford the medication she needs in order to treat her diabetes. Meanwhile, Luke is caught up in his past mistakes as he faces deployment. Due to both of them needing military benefits, they come together in a fake marriage. Nonetheless, sparks begin to fly between them as they actually get to know each other better. Soon enough, the romance upon which their sham marriage was supposedly based becomes a reality.  

Why Is It So Dangerous?

The main characters personify two warped versions of political beliefs: the liberal Latina Cassie, and the subdued conservative Luke. Thus, blue and red come together to create purple. Not to mention that the title is a direct reference to the purple heart decoration medal the President awards wounded or killed personnel who served in the military. The movie is military propaganda, considering that it fails to acknowledge the dismal treatment of veterans within the military and the emotional trauma that it may entail. Besides, many veterans struggle to survive adjusting to their new lives after serving. In an interview with Military.com, director Rosenbaum talked about the military’s involvement. The movie was allowed to film on Camp Pendleton, California, which inevitably led to a bit of tweaking on the script to represent the military in a favorable light. As a result, we see courageous scenes from the US soldiers in the Iraq war. We even see Luke’s friend scream racist remarks without any questioning or pushback from anyone but Cassie, who later on softens her disdain for the military. Ultimately, the military is viewed through not-so-subtle rose-colored glasses.

Moreover, the movie does not explain why politics are so divisive nowadays in the United States. On the one hand, the modern conservative party is actively hurting others with their efforts regarding the restriction of abortion rights, education and civil rights; not to mention their use of fascism and cult-like behavior to increase their following. Meanwhile, the progressive side is trying to enact change in a traditionalist world. It’s dangerous to display that the liberal section needs to submit to their conservative counterpart, because it can lead to the fallacy that only one party can exist. In the movie, Cassie becomes a subtle version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and thus sets aside her beliefs in order to be with Luke. As for him, he refuses to change his viewpoint and consequently endangers her life without taking any accountability for his actions. To add insult to injury, her character being Latina and fully aware that his political beliefs have actively demonized and disparaged the Latin American community shows the danger of desensitizing transgressions made by political zealots. Because of this, the movie fails to showcase the complexities of people’s lives and the real reasons why someone would participate in a fake marriage. At long last, this arrangement does not unite anyone, as both characters never develop or break free from their respective stereotypes.

The reality is that modern conservatism is often linked with cult-like tendencies, wherein you might be punished for trying to live differently from their idealized world. However, the truth of the matter is that we live in a melting pot with people who have a myriad of experiences, and change will inevitably ensue in order to protect different groups, minorities and cultures. We cannot cling to a past where one group reigned supreme while others had no choice but to suffer at their expense. Some beliefs should never be normalized, especially those that deny or repress the existence of individuals who make up our incredibly diverse and versatile world. 

What We Can Learn As Viewers…

We should think critically of the media we consume, and we should question what message it is trying to convey and the lens that is being used to do so. This movie could have been a sweet romantic story without its blatant political propaganda. Nonetheless, the creator decided to portray a very specific message. As viewers, we should be cautious of what others are trying to say. Likewise, as writers, we possess the influential weapon of communication. Words are power, and so we should be thoughtful of what we are trying to express and how we express it, while being empathic of our audience and their experiences.

Kayla M Altagracia Jimenez is a book lover who enjoys writing stories, painting, bullet journaling, listening to music, watching shows and movies. An English Literature student at the UPR Rio Piedras Campus, she loves wandering on new adventures. She dreams of becoming a renowned writer and making a meaningful difference in the world. Admires writers like R. L. Stine, Toni Morrison, and John Green.
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