The Memes Behind The Goats

Hej igen allesammen! I dag vi snakker om geder! (Hello again! Today we are going to discuss goats!)

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Just last night, in the discomfort of the cold Coates Library, here at Trinity University, I set upon watching Grant Heslov’s 2009 film, The Men Who Stare At Goats. I have to admit, I was quiet unsure how the film was going to play out. I clearly remember watching the trailers for the film sometime in 2009 and being somewhat intrigued. However, upon its release I heard very little about it and quickly forgot that the film existed. But once I saw the film’s name listed on the group of films which we could watch for our Conspiracy Film Analysis, by some unknown force I was drawn to it. And so I started the film yesterday a little weary that I might soon be terribly board. I was pleasantly surprised. I LOVED it! It was witty, humors, in a dark sense, and it was LOADED with memes.

The film copied so many prevalent modern concepts, such as: the hero myth, the modern fairy tale and top secret military conspiracies. Indeed, the film was the prefect example of what Joseph Campbell refers to as the “monomyth” (qtd in Andrew Gordon 314). Further, I was struck by the relevancy of Andrew Gordon article in respects to the film. The Men Who Stare At Goats is a re-make of the already “modern fairy tale” Star Wars, directed by George Lucas, which Gordon discusses in great detail. The film is loaded with direct and indirect references to Star Wars. The film utilize this Star Wars and “classical structure story telling” (Thomas Sobchack 196) meme to high light its somewhat obscure argument. In coalition with these two memes the film also uses a top secret military conspiracy meme to entertain and highlight it’s deeper meaning.  These three memes all share a common denominator, in order for the hero to succeed on his quest, or the fairy tale to end with a happy ending, or a conspiracy to continue spreading people must believe. The hero must believe in his ability to conquer evil, the fairy tale musters characters who believe in a cause and see it through, and a conspiracy is only successful if it is believed in. Thus by combining these three memes, The Men Who Stare At Goats not only comically entertains its audience, but stresses the importance of faith and the human need to “believe in something.”

For those of you who know nothing of the film, the modern day fairy tale follows an average Joe a journalist by the name of Bob Wildon, who decides to go on an adventure after his wife leaves him. The film takes place at the height of the Iraqi War, Bob, being a journalist, believes that if he can become a renowned war journalist he will win back his wife. He travels to Kuwait and waits for weeks for his permit to cross over into Iraq. On one fateful night, he runs into a man named Lyn Cassady. He remembers the name instantly from an interview he had conducted several years past with a man, named Gus Lacy, who had claimed he had been trained as a physic spy. During the interview, Gus had said Lyn Cassady was the best physic spy that the Army had trained. Bob asks Lyn if he knows Gus and tells him about the interview he had conducted several years ago. Cassady become interested in Bob begins to elaborate on the physic spy training that the Army had conducted shortly after Vietnam. The training was top secret and was conducted in hopes of creating “Jedi Warriors,” soldiers that could fight enemies with just their minds. Bob volunteers to join Cassady on his secret mission into Iraq. On the mission, Cassady takes him under his wings and teaches Bob his “powers.” Throughout the film the audience and Bob are left thinking that Cassady is just crazy and he really has no power after several of his physic “demonstrations” fail. However, there are several parts in the film that Cassady’s powers seem real, for instance, he kills a goat by just staring at it. The audience is left guessing whether or not these “Jedi” powers are real or if Lyn is just crazy. I won’t give away the ending in this blog post, however, like my thesis states the film emphasizes the importance of faith and belief in something, even if that something is as strange as believing in physic powers. This belief gives “meaning to your life” (Bob Wildon 1:05).

With that short summary in mind, I will argue, as previously mentioned, that The Men Who Stare At Goats uses the hero meme, the fairy tale meme, and military conspiracy meme to stress the need in faith of something, anything.

Topic Sentence 1: Through the usage of the hero meme, the film, The Men Who Stare At Goats, stresses the importance of belief. A hero/ine cannot fulfill his destiny, overcome evil, or succeed at anything until she/he truly believes in himself.

Topic Sentence 2: The Men Who Stare At Goats clearly expresses the classic fairy tale meme in order to highlight the fact that if people do not come together and believe in their cause, no matter how hard a hero/ine tries, the fairy tale will not end happily.

Topic Sentence 3:  By believing in his physic abilities, Lyn Cassady, was able to live a fulfilling and happy life, as soon as he looses belief in this “Jedi” conspiracy he begins to wane away and succumb to his cancer. Through the usage of this military conspiracy, the film stresses the importance of faith in something. As soon as Bob Wildon believed in the conspiracy he became happy and led a fulfilling life even without winning his wife back.

To conclude, my paper will roughly follow this outline, I am still working on the logistic and specific arguments which I need to iron out. But in the meantime, make sure to go watch The Men Who Stare At Goats, not only is it a wonderful film, but then my paper will make better sense!

Vi Ses (Until Next Time),

Rebeca

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