I’d been following the BagNews Notes photography blog because I like the way they analyze news photography. Once in awhile I think they read too much into a simple photo and that’s annoying, but tons of people do that so I let it slide. Today, however, they pissed me off with this posting:
This photo is one of three they posted from a series of 127 boot camp photos by Scott Olsen, taken just this week. (which are very good, by the way)
First the comments (YES, I know, never read web comments, I slipped…oops) made me mad:
“Horrific, seeing these young women looking like soul-less zombies, mindlessly obeying their military superiors.”
“Very sad … and my first response to these photos isn’t even that they are women with that “1000-yard stare,” but that they are little more than just-beyond children.”
After I recovered from being insulted, I got mad about the corruption of the thousand yard stare. Apparently the writer and some readers at BagNews think the thousand yard stare is something you can be taught and that it’s now being taught at Marine Corps boot camp. I must have missed that class.
Last I heard, the infamous “thousand yard stare” was something you might see in grizzled combat veterans or in others who have suffered some kind of horrible trauma. Perhaps something like this:
“He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning.”
Boot camp sucked, but it wasn’t exactly the battles of the Pacific or Fallujah.
In most of the photos where the Marines supposedly have a 1000-yard stare, they are just standing at attention. And as anybody in the military knows, when you stand at attention you aren’t supposed to turn your head or wiggle your eyeballs to see what’s going on, even if there’s a photographer next to you. If there’s something you want to look at, like a photographer, you have to try EVEN HARDER to NOT look at them. So in photos it looks like you’re zoning out into another universe.
Standing motionless and not moving your eyes for a little while does not make you a soulless, mindless zombie.
Neither does joining the Marine Corps.