Trying to Tell Their Own Story

Elvis Mitchell: In your movies there's a lot of vanity that the characters have. The characters pay a lot of attention to their looks, which is also really the province of young people, too, isn't it? I mean you're constantly sort of aware of the way you appear superficially. They like looking at themselves. They look really cool in those uniforms and that's a big part of it, too, these guys, so many of them have the flag tattooed on the bicep --

Kimberly Peirce finds herself back in the director's role with Stop-Loss. (Suzanne kreiter/Boston Globe staff) Kimberly Peirce: So there's two things there. One is masculinity, which I find really interesting because you really do have to perform masculinity in order to sustain it. It doesn't kind of just come naturally, even for men in a way...I originally got a hold of twenty soldier videos and they were putting cameras on sandbags, on gun turrets, inside Humvees, and--unfiltered—just recording their experience. But that wasn't enough. Then they were going back to their barracks and they were cutting them into, in a way, what was a fantasy of themselves.

So they would take Toby Keith, I'm an American Soldier—I mean the words in the Toby Keith song are heartbreaking and great, it's kind of like, I'm just an average guy, but I happen to be at war, and I can't go home at night, and look at the sacrifices I go through—it's total heroism...Or it's the thrill kill stuff which is, Look at me, I'm powerful [Linkin Part, AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine]...It's like, Wow, America is powerful, don't screw with us...So when you talk about that narcissism or that sense of one's own image, when I look at these videos, I see, Wow, they're really trying to tell their own story, but in a way that really makes them look both heroic and strong and patriotic.

Discussing her film Stop-Loss on KCRW's The Treatment (4.02.08)