Examining Red vs. Blue as an Anti-War Film

D. Bruno Starrs has penned a research paper which takes at look at the popular machinima series Red vs. Blue as an anti-war film.

Entitled Reverbing: The Red vs. Blue Machinima as Anti-War film, the self-proclaimed independent-scholar explains that his paper examines Red vs. Blue “in the context of the war film genre, given that machinma is a kind of cinema.” Starrs notes the proliferation of other anti-war-themed machinima, such as We Choose Death or Deviation, but says he chose Red vs. Blue as the basis for his paper because of its “longevity and popularity” and “unique use of humour.”

The author then takes the reader on a quick journey through the history of the evolution of war stances in Hollywood films over the years. From the birth of Hollywood through the middle of the 20th century, films were typically unabashedly pro-war and displayed an, “eagerness to go to war for the sake of vaguely defined ‘American values.’”

When anti-war films like MASH, The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now did start to appear, they were distanced from the wars they were based on by several years, providing some separation. In today’s culture however, films “are depicting the current conflagration in all its brutality, as it happens, even if mainstream US television hesitates.”

Which brings us to the place of Red vs. Blue in this progression:

In contrast, the anti-war message of RvB is conveyed not through horror but through humour, and therein lies its most significant and telling critique of warfare-led ideology. By denying morbid voyeurs the carnage of war, RvB permits dialogue between its less than eager combatants in which the structures supporting their self-sacrifice are questioned.

Starrs writes that Red vs. Blue “ruthlessly” parodies the six “generic traits of the pro-war film,” such as basic training “high jinks,” somber funerals for war victims, contributions of a “racial minority,” the importance of the flag, self-sacrifice and “justification of the cause.”

The author then serves up examples from the machinima series for each “trait” listed above. Regarding “primacy of the flag,” he offers the following scene from RvB:

In Episode 4 of RvB, however, Caboose queries: ‘What’s so important about the flag?’ To which Church stumbles as he replies: ‘Because it’s the flag. Man, you know . . . it’s the flag . . . Tucker, you tell him why the flag is so important.’ But Tucker is also unable to explain the significance of the artifact their lives are being risked for: ‘Well, it’s . . . it’s complicated. It’s blue. We’re blue.’

Red vs. Blue also differentiates itself from pro-war films by offering up depictions of women as warriors, and, as Starrs writes, “These characters are portrayed positively with their femininity effectively naturalized by the actions of the male soldiers.”

In his summation, Starrs praises machinima as an activism tool, writing, “The speed with which machinima can be made and distributed means that prejudices being cultivated by one-sided press reports can be creatively and quickly countered in the online world.”

Starrs finishes:

Many players of Halo are now also fans of RvB and it is quite possible that the pro-war ideologies indoctrinated by their first-person shooter game play are effectively countered by the anti-war ideology of this very popular machinima series.

The full paper will be published in the April 2010 issue of Continuum.

Many thanks to Wai Yen Tang for turning us on to this paper!

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  1. Kabyk says:

    He’s also only referring the Blood Gulch Chronicles, seasons 1-5. But since he doesnt specify, he clearly doesn’t realize there’s more seasons after 5, which certainly wouldn’t fit into his study.

    Especially Reconstruction, which basically says "Let’s stop kidding around, time to kill some peeps".

  2. count23 says:

    This guy is reading way too much into a video that started with Burnie Burns and Gustov Sorola making funny voices to a video review of Halo while drunk one evening. That’s how halo started really, "drunk gamers" review of Halo. They figured they’d make a short about why the warthog doesnt look anything like it’s namesake and the series was born from there.

    No anti-war message, no politics, just 3 drunk guys poking fun at plot holes in Halo’s multiplayer games.

  3. Nerd42 says:

    I wonder how much Red vs Blue this guy has actually watched. The show is a parody of American and military culture in general, not an anti-war propoganda piece. That’s absurd. Didn’t they basically deny that the show was political back in 2004?

  4. Kajex says:

    I’ll remember that when I critique my nephew’s stick-figure drawings of his kitty. There’s obviously some deeper meaning behind his art to pick at.

    Seriously- it’s like there needs to be a deeper meaning behind the most trivial things. Ever think that maybe- just maybe – my nephew likes to draw stick-figures of kitties?

  5. hellfire7885 says:

    Comedy, like ALL forms of art, is subjective to the viewer. If they guy watched it and took away some anti-war message, then that’s what he got from it, simple as that.

  6. jedidethfreak says:

    I’m curious about what the fuck kind of drugs this guy was on to watch RvB and actually see a serious, focused and intentional anti-war message.

    All I ever saw was funny-assed shit.  Serious, focused and intentional anti-war messages can’t be made into funny-assed shit.

    You KILL Vampires. You don’t DATE them.

  7. Kajex says:

    "Great comedy exists ONLY to make serious points."

    I will kindly ask you to remain silent and refrain from speaking such obvious foolishness.

    The Three Stooges was great comedy. It existed for one fucking purpose- to make people LAUGH. Much of Mel Brooks’ movies are great comedies with no point of meaningful discussion to ramble on about.

    Seriously- it’s more than a little pretentious to pretend that in order for a comedy to be "great", it for some reason NEEDS to have some deeper meaning attached to it, or some point of discussion to a social or political issue. Sure, there are many great comedies that DO, but it’s an insult to people’s intelligence (and sense of humor) to claim that comedy isn’t centered around laughing.

  8. jedidethfreak says:

    If RvB was about an actual fight, then you’d be spot on.  However, RvB isn’t about two opposing forces with differing geopolitical ideals, or a fight over land or resources.  RvB is about what the characters IN HALO’S MULTIPLAYER BATTLES might be thinking.  The whole "why are we here?" thing isn’t a scathing political commentary on real war.  It’s asking what the point of a multiplayer battle in Halo is, from the game character’s perspective.

    See the difference?

    Not only is the paper writer reading too much into it, so are you.

    Also, I didn’t say comedy can’t make serious points.  What I said is you can’t have a serious, focused and intentional anti-war message conveyed by something as truly hilarious as RvB, as the people who would need to see that message wouldn’t see it, because of all of the jokes coming a mile a minute.

    You KILL Vampires. You don’t DATE them.

  9. Bennett Beeny says:

    Sorry guys, but Red vs. Blue is obviously anti-war. Heck, they even ask (in some way) ‘why are we fighting’ in almost every episode. The guy who wrote the paper isn’t ‘reading too much into it’ – he’s simply reading what is an entirely obvious message. If you don’t think that message is there, then you’re simply not understanding Red vs. Blue.

    Now it could be argued that the message is not a conscious decision on the part of the writers – maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean the message isn’t there. Red vs. Blue is clearly anti-war.

    Also, the person who thinks comedy can’t make a serious point is missing the whole point of comedy. Great comedy exists ONLY to make serious points. If it doesn’t make serious points it’s a waste of time – and usually not funny.

  10. Kajex says:

    Dammit, I HATE IT when people try to look at something simple and straightforward as comedy and attempt to claim it has deep, meaningful topics of discussions, or is a metaphor for a particular political stance or idea. Why the hell can’t comedy just be comedy?

    The idea that RvB is an anti-war film series is a fucking laugh in itself. The author that penned this crap up seems to forget that it’s not that the Reds don’t want to kill the Blues, or vice-versa- it’s that they’re too goddamn stupid to do it right in the first place. You see Sarge and Caboose going at it with the red and blue zealots- you see Caboose make a wickedly clean headshot at a Church-possessed Sarge. And you see a full-on (low-ammunition fueled) siege on the Blue base with an actual (same-team-responsible) casualty on Caboose’s (soon-to-be-avenged) pinky-toe.

    So… how was this anti-war again?

  11. PumaFau says:

    I can see were he is coming from….Red vs. Blue does have some anti war themes


    Never underestimate the power of idiots in large amounts.

  12. gamegod25 says:

    I just goes to show that you can find hidden meaning in anything if you look hard enough.

  13. Mattsworkname says:

    This guy really needs to go back and look at the series again, he’s reading into it way to much.
    If anything, Red vs blue is hardly anti war, it’s anit beauracracy, as stated by the creators in the Commentary, it’s more about beaurcratic humor, not anti war messages.


    Sounds like someone didn’t do there research, and yes, I know, Im a massive Nerd.


    "My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

  14. Kharne says:

    So… the only reason the Allies set up base here is because the Axis have a base over there, and the only reason the Axis have a base over there is because the Allies have a base here…

  15. DorthLous says:

    And the third is, pardon the expression but it fully applies here, a slut without intellect…

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