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Vietnam Conflict

The war epic genre still has plenty of life in it, both as a popular formula and as the object of productive story telling of history. However, it will continue to generate criticism and discussion on the merits of genuine film history. “We are only beginning to really understand how genres work in and on our society, and as long as we seek that understanding …harder and longer than any other genre in media history. ” (Gehring, 1988, p. 43)

These films indicate a wide variety of oral history films about the Vietnam Conflict from various viewpoints demonstrate the messages of these films within the context of film history and the history of the nation in the twentieth century. The film omits typical “Time Capsule” segments that relate the backgrounds of the men in life before joining or being drafted into the military. There is not even a single flashback. The only concern is the present, what is next and how to survive it.

It is generally argued that Hollywood was reluctant to make war films with a Vietnam setting. For during this period-during the Cold War, during an era of increasing international tension and intervention, during the victory culture and the era of counter-cultural agitation that coincided with the Vietnam conflict. Defeat and withdrawal from Southeast Asia in the early 1970s challenged America’s senses of “victory” on the battlefield. In the 1960s and early 1970s the war was publicly divisive.

The struggles of other third world countries around the world and the struggles of ethnic minorities at home served as increasingly points on contention. The lowly status of the black enlisted men conveys the extent to which racism has condemned the black man to a life on the front line in Vietnam. Additionally, the movie industry was in financial crisis and seeking to appeal to younger sectors. Spill over the 60’s generation, indoctrinated a population to become largely hostile to the war and the military.

Platoon overlaid a blatant Good versus Evil battle pitched between the personal stories of young soldiers. The driving purpose of Platoon was to address the schizophrenic nature of American policies on the Vietnam conflict. The film’s writing of the war purposely excludes the Vietnamese point of view. “Pro-war and anti-war politics are reenacted as different positions in a debate on how best to fight and win the war. One group, led by the `good’ Sergeant Elias … whilst the other, led by the `bad’ Sergeant Barnes. ” (Grainge, 2003, p. 111)

In comparison to World War II films from Sam Fuller, (1950’s American writer/director, WWII veteran, The Big Red One (1980) portrayal of the horrors of war on the front lines first person account) Platoon returns to the standard of battle scene film making. It is an account of his days with the First Infantry Division (as the ‘‘One’’ was officially known)—a three-year stretch from 1942 to 1945 during which time Fuller received the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and a Purple Heart. (Curran, 1998, p. 26) I take the position Platoon is one of the definitive stories about the Vietnam War and tantamount to Miller’s work.

Dramatizing the My Lai Massacre, (a massacre committed by U. S. soldiers on hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, on March 16, 1968, Platoon presented the excruciating agony of men and boys dispensing draconian judgments during the existence of war. Mirroring the actions of Lt. William Calley (the Lieutenant who led C-Company My Lai and the only person convicted), discovered enemy bunker complexes, the Platoon finds one of its comrades hung on a pole, with his throat cut.

This action is similar to the motive that physically enraged Lt. Calley’s men, fellow platoon soldiers were killed on previous occasions in the same manner. The Platoon proceeds to enter a nearby village and assumes that residents are either Vietcong or aiding the enemy, following the same logic directed by Calley’s orders that they could assume that all who remained behind in the villages were either Viet Cong or active Viet Cong sympathizers. ” Replete with fear and anger, even troops previously incapable of vengeful murder become involved in the genocide of civilians and the destruction of their homes…chaos and murder ensued. ” (Safran, 2001, p. 223)

The political and social divisions of the Vietnam War left to the witnesses and participants of war a legacy of confusion, contradiction, struggles over meaning rather than assurances of a true purpose. “Indeed, if in the classic war conversion, we are passive participants in observing a meaningfulness that is naturally and easily recovered – conversion as the light of awareness that grows and glows across the face as the cynic realizes his true mission. ” (Elsaesser et al. 2004, p. 270) Not with standing the dominance of Hollywood’s position in the context of “world view.

” The ability exists, on a regular basis, to initiate debate about the nature of America’s historical context via popular film. The soldiers’ treatment of civilians, including women and children, emphasizes not only the brutality of the war but also the ease with which the Americans direct their fear and hatred at the Vietnamese people. Portraying the hardship, confusion, and sheer terror that comprised the texture of day-to-day experience for American soldiers in Vietnam is largely because of the realism of its portrayal of this experience by the director.

America, through this medium, has become central to critical discussions about its own status and bearing of memory of Vietnam and the cultural and social impact left in its wake. While the study of the film history extends itself to a number of platforms and agenda, with potentially different stakes in the form and nature of cinematic remembrance, here, Hollywood, and the cultural, political and social history of the United States is compressed into a narrative originating from Southeast Asia is the principal focus of concern. “These interests coincided between 1977 and 1984, as a ‘new film history.

In both the USA and Europe, the avant-garde’s interest in early film form coincided with a revisionist history of the primitive era. Historians as well as film-makers saw primitive cinema as an alternative to the mainstream, not just an ancestor. ” (Nowell-Smith, 1997, p. 548) “Thus, the 1987-88 phase of Vietnam War film history is its postmodernist phase, a series of films that consciously deconstruct the war that was consistently deconstructing itself even as it was going on. “ (Palmer, 1995, p. 22) In Platoon, when the act to impose the order of story is made, that attempt is successful and consistently the constructing of the text.

The success is noted by the ability to capture the existential feel of disorder, structure and reason. “What the conservative view of history often fails to consider is the ambient mobility of “facts” themselves, their variant text dependent upon who is reporting them and how, the complexity of the context out of which those “facts” are generated. Michael Herr in Dispatches defines this ephemerally of historical “facts” and texts: “It was late ’67 now,” he writes, “even the most detailed maps didn’t reveal much anymore; reading them was like trying to read the faces of the Vietnamese, and that was like trying to read the wind.

We knew that the uses of most information were flexible, different pieces of ground told different stories to different people. ” Quoted by Mike Clark in “Expect Films with a Touch of Class,” USA Today, 26 August 1984. In any case, the majority of Vietnam era films as a whole avoids demonizing the Vietnamese communists, but acknowledges the atrocities committed by the American forces. No film is in the position to examine or explain the underlying causes of this type of conflict without access to every piece of real evidence and decision maker of the time.

Indeed, the film is not really about the conflict between the Americans and the Vietnamese communists at all. Instead, it focuses on internal conflicts within the American platoon is a reflection of American society. If America can’t take care of its own, then the American takes care of himself, by whatever means available.


David A. Cook, 1996, A History of Narrative Film. Publisher: W. W. Norton. Place of Publication: New York. Page Number: 443. Frank J. Wetta, Stephen J. Curley, 1992, Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: New York. Page Number: 35. Steve Neale, 2000, Genre and Hollywood. Publisher: Routledge. Place of Publication: London. Page Number: 132. Wes D. Gehring, 1988, Handbook of American Film Genres. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: New York. Page Number: 43.

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