To what extent do 1980s Vietnam films, particularly Gardens of Stone, Platoon, and Hamburger Hill, provide Americans some kind of cultural closure, or at least reconciliation, to the Vietnam War, as Judy Lee Kinney suggests?


Vietnam War and Film Questions:

1) Between the end of the war and the late-1990s, many Americans suspected that some of the American MIAs were in fact POWs in Vietnam. Devine covers this in some detail. This idea was the premise behind the Braddock MIA films, and of course First Blood, Part II, among others. What role did the films play in American culture during the 1980s? Was it a revenge fantasy? A way to keep missing friends, neighbors, and family members alive? Something else? Were there political ramifications to the idea?

2) The Rambo franchise is traditionally understood as representative of the hawkish foreign policy outlook associated with Reagan conservatism during the 1980s (see Devine). John Rambo himself, however, can also be viewed as the embodiment of Kennedy’s New Frontier (see Anderegg, Ch. 7). Which explanation is most convincing? Are the two positions mutually exclusive?

3) Tony Williams suggests that 1970s and 1980s Vietnam films have more in common than not. Is he correct? Consider representations of combat, politics, race, gender, and class.

4) Except for Gardens of Stone, each of the films assigned during this two week period features extensive in-country combat sequences. As Devine points out, producers and directors routinely put their actors through boot camp in an effort to have the resulting films appear realistic. Platoon and Hamburger Hill in particular were marketed as realistic representations of the Vietnam War. For many viewers, that advertising was accepted. Leaving aside the question of the truth of the films’ claims to realism for the moment, what is the significance to U.S. culture, society, and politics of the 1980s of these films being accepted as accurate representations of the Vietnam War? In other words, if we take as a given that the films represent the country’s collective memory – whether accurate or not – what is the significance?

5) To what extent do 1980s Vietnam films, particularly Gardens of Stone, Platoon, and Hamburger Hill, provide Americans some kind of cultural closure, or at least reconciliation, to the Vietnam War, as Judy Lee Kinney suggests? Can you contextualize these films in the broader Americiquan experience during the 1980s?

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