Patton is such a great film that you can simply enjoy it as pure cinema. All of the praise heaped on George C. Scott’s magisterial performance is entirely warranted and lives up to the legacy of its formidable subject in every way. Like every man who holds a position of power, he was complicated and difficult, and the film does an excellent job of giving an unvarnished portrait. However, I believe that at this stage of American history, we must also take a step back from its ostensible role as a vehicle for WWII propaganda and consider its deeper significance as both a sketch of the male warrior hero archetype and a representation of bygone military ideals.
Anyone who’s read my reviews here knows that I am a critic of current woke trends in cinema which are generally hostile towards every form of masculine authority, strength and virtue. I find these trends a decadent and destructive affront to civilization itself. What’s patently obvious in this obnoxious trend is that Hollywood is attempting to supplant the male warrior archetype with a female replacement. In the progressive worldview, gender is allegedly a social construct, but the heroic virtues that have historically been attributed to manhood can simply be transferred over to women if we just make enough of them superheroes in movies and comics. Or something. And men must subordinate and sublimate any pride or masculine tendencies in themselves in order to accommodate this cultural shift. Because Current Year, you dumbass misogynists.
What Patton does so masterfully is remind us that America wants and needs a warrior class and warrior heroes. People need models of valor and heroism. This isn’t a suggestion that these virtues cannot be found in other realms, but the soldier is the one who will take up arms and sacrifice himself to defend his people and his country. This also entails the idea that the warrior is defending ideals that are embodied and upheld in the nation state. Patton is unequivocally fighting for America as a sovereign nation as well as the institutions charged with their preservation for posterity. When Patton delivers his iconic speech, he speaks of the American thirst for victory as a universally shared virtue amongst his countrymen. The combat unit, like the nation it represents, is a team. Individualism is just a fanciful notion promulgated by effete journalists who are stroking the egos of their Starbucks socialist target demo.
One is left with the impression that he was not a democratic globalist nor was he especially enamored of America’s role as an ally in a multinational coalition. The very idea of fighting for your country is sneered at by anyone in the progressive establishment because it implies there are ideas, institutions, symbols, traditions, and yes, sovereign borders, that require both conservation and defense from invasion. Quite simply, it implies that the nation itself is a distinct entity, has a fixed metaphysical reality and isn’t just an arbitrary social construct. For Patton, America is a place with unique people, institutions, culture and history.
The Hollywood intelligentsia sidestep this idea by focusing almost exclusively on superhero and sci-fi properties which cast the warrior as a representative of a global or intergalactic order that has transcended the quaint notion of a sovereign nation state. For progressives, the subversive is the only heroic ideal because subversion is the only value that ultimately matters in that paradigm. The progressive order is a globalized collection of deracinated individuals who inhabit generic economic zones in which cultural distinction and history has been forcibly obliterated through multiculturalism. Patton feels so radical now because it is an artifact from a time when progressives in Hollywood weren’t as disdainful of America and its military as they are now.
It’s also worth noting that this film is a portrait of a heroic white American man. Would you like to see Lin-Manuel Miranda reinvent Patton as a Mexican immigrant? I’m sure there’s a contingent of woke ideologues who would. Can you imagine Brie Larson attempting the opening monologue of Patton? Of course you can’t because it would be laughable and stupid. People can’t even stand her as Captain Marvel. Can you imagine any progressive extolling the American thirst for victory? Of course not because they absolutely despise this country and its people. Besides, it would sound too much like #OrangeManBad.
Nowadays, people will undoubtedly focus on Patton’s megalomaniacal tendencies or some idiotic revisionist claim that he embodies “white supremacy” or nationalism in its most toxic form. It was even suggested in the film after he delivered a reprimand to a traumatized soldier which landed him in the crosshairs of the media. These people can suck on it. I’d wager that the very people who mainstreamed the #PunchANazi meme wouldn’t deign to pay their respects to man who actually went to war against real Nazis.
People my age have only known cynicism and the revolutionary ethos as organizing principles. We’ve grown up in a world where honest patriotism gets conflated with democratic imperialism and military-industrial overreach. We only know a world in which the masters of war seek only to test their game theory models and then take all of their innovations of psychological warfare back home to degrade their own populations. Increasingly, we’re seeing a military-industrial complex push warfare further into the realm of technocratic innovation which would strip away human involvement altogether while moving us closer to the Skynet nightmare suggested in the Terminator series. When you can vaporize an entire country by drone bombing it from a remote location, it removes the necessity for lofty speeches about valor.
We simply don’t even know what it takes to be the kind of soldier George Patton was. We have no idea what it means to live by a soldier’s code. We have no idea what it takes to go into battle with absolute clarity of moral purpose. For George Patton, to die on the battlefield is the highest glory. Patton didn’t hold the modern view that war was an aberration. He held that warfare has been a permanent feature of civilization and saw himself as part of a lineage of military commanders going back to the earliest empires. He studied the strategy of the great military minds and he reveled in his victory over Rommel by beating him at his own game.
The one gripe I have about Patton is that it is another film which casts the struggle against national socialism as the one unequivocal moral imperative which every American should affirm and recognize for all eternity. It’s as though the Nazis were the only genocidal totalitarian regime in human history. While I’m not going to dwell on the interests who funded the war and fomented the conflict, Patton may have been on to something when he compared Democrats and Republicans to Nazis. While the progressive Left is nearly unanimous in its rote denunciations of a manufactured boogeyman of “white nationalism” or “fascism”, the horrors of communism are nearly ignored despite amassing a body count that surpasses the Nazis by several orders of magnitude. Patton’s disdain for the Bolsheviks was explicit in the film and the biographical records, but these details never get the same traction in the public consciousness the same way the Nazi regime does.
The unfortunate irony is that despite all of Patton’s bravery and grit, the American ideals for which he supposedly fought have allowed communist militias to roam American streets and terrorize American citizens with the tacit support from the media and Democratic Party. These contemptible degenerates in Antifa aren’t worthy of scraping dogshit from Patton’s shoe, but they and the media lackeys who prop them up undoubtedly see themselves as the direct equivalent of the soldiers serving under Patton. It is a supreme tragedy that the American spirit which Patton routinely celebrated and idealized has devolved into a decadent lassitude which has allowed subversive groups like this to flourish with the implicit support of the establishment.
I imagine it’s difficult for the contemporary soldier to have a sense of moral clarity about his mission in 2019. Perhaps the notion of Americanism is still sufficient, but it must be a drag knowing that you’re coming home to some ungrateful gender studies graduate who’s going to spit in your face and call you a tool of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The respect that the military are properly due has been poisoned by too many years in overseas interventions whose costs are invisible to the average American. Even after eighteen years in Afghanistan, the elites are wringing their hands over the prospect of withdrawal. What would George Patton have made of all these things? Impossible to know for sure, but I have a hunch he’d still be fighting for the America he lionized in his speeches.