chapter  11
15 Pages

No Easy Mission

Zero Dark Thirty and Gendered Heroism in the Post-Heroic Age
ByLindsey Mantoan

As Zero Dark Thirty and the Navy SEAL memoirs suggest, the reality and representations of Operation Neptune Spear (ONS) perform a highly gendered heroism in a post-heroic age of warfare. Taking out an enemy such as bin Ladin called for an exceptional feat of bravery, and the raid marked not only the end of the Al Qaeda threat, but also an iconic moment of heroism in an era where drone pilots kill without risking their own lives. Although ONS required bravery, this valor couldn't be seen, which compelled representations of it in order to make visible US heroism a masculine heroism directed at reaffirming the US's place atop the world order. Drone warfare eschews the warrior ethos; Special Forces missions require and reaffirm it. The bin Laden raid shares many characteristics with drone missions: both are considered "targeted" strikes, both have sketchy legal frameworks, and both direct military violence at a person on the so-called "kill list".