To me, any war novel is, by definition, an anti-war novel, because even if and when somebody wins, everybody loses. Some novels and films are simply more true to the experience than others. Inasmuch as The Avengers does many things right, it is not the great war movie it aspires to be. So for the sake of the young people who see it throughout the world, I wish that one of the usual Joss Whedon trademarks–dramatizing the cost in human life of armed conflict–had made it into the film more poignantly.
I wanted to capture our cultural ambivalence about this subject in my own work, and attempted to have it tear apart my male protagonist. This lead him to actions that some will interpret as lazy, stupid, traitorous, even cowardly. Here I took my inspiration partly from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1950). It’s always a big risk to potentially alienate one’s audience from one’s main characters. But I felt, justifiably I hope, that a man who was 39 years old might feel very differently about journeying to the other side of the planet to fight his nation’s declared enemies, than a 19 year old might–even if it were the same man. In a sense then, it’s the same experience that many men and women who went to Vietnam lived through–going in believing one story, coming out the other side with quite an altered one.
I tried purposefully to be inexact (in true Romantic form) about the specific locations Will visits, because for the past twenty years we, as a nation, have been following the exploits of our own soldiers throughout the Arab world, and I felt this was a bit of a universal issue anyway. Having personally known men who, by their own accounts, in 1990-91, had a pretty easy time of it during Desert Storm, I think it’s safe to say many of the agents of our government’s policies today epitomize the weariness and cost that their generation has suffered, to fuel the ceaseless machine of war.