A WORLD OF EXTREMES The ultimate form of cinema creates conditions in which extreme expressions of love, hate, action, violence, and death can find representation. production numbers of war films Explosive action sequences Superhuman feats of bravery Spectacular displays of mass destruction State of War: hellish no-man s land of violence and death Slightest actions (or inaction) death of self or comrades
BREAKING RULES: Suspension of Reality The battlefield is a world in which the laws, beliefs, behavior, and morality of a civilization are suspended (201). War rewrites civil and criminal law OK to kill, an imperative (opposes thou shall not kill ) Good guys break the rules (motivated by moral outrage, expediency, or compassion). Convenience governs morality Might makes right End justifies the means
BREAKING RULES: Deviant Narrative From Individual to Group Goals The exceptional circumstances of the battlefield force individuals to place their own needs beneath those of the platoon, squadron, division, battalion, fleet, army, and nation (Belton 197). Individual heroism = form of self-indulgence, counterproductive Cooperation becomes crucial to the survival of the group/platoon
SEXUAL COMBAT: MASCULINITY IN THE WAR FILM Oedipal Battles Conventional Homoeroticism Masculine/Feminine Back from the Front
Oedipal Battles Absence of women, different sexual dynamics, non-traditional love triangles Headstrong recruits engage in oedipal romance and/or warfare w/ top sergeants Proof of courage, manhood Father figures Platoon (1986) Apocalypse Now (1979)
Conventional Homoeroticism Women (when shown) are objects of desire, competition/rivalry Sexual relationships w/ women symbolic of male desires for each other… According to psychoanalysts (thanks, Freud), displaced homoerotic or homosocial relationship rivalry becomes exchange
Masculine/Feminine Women as threats (sound familiar?) Vulnerability, emotion potentially destructive Goose s death in Top Gun? Must repress the feminine elements of the psyche Boot camp scene (warning: contains offensive language) Full Metal Jacket
Back from the Front Normal world (family, wives, children) = Alien World Difficulty veterans face reintegrating into society upon return home Unfit for traditional social order due to hypermasculinization (rage, violence) Portrayal of Veterans as social outcasts, outlaws Willard s comments about his divorce, no longer having a home in Apocalypse Now, Rambo in First Blood
CROSSOVERS: WAR AND GENRE Excesses define norms of conventional cinema through transgression Broad variety of perspectives on war beyond the combat film Every film that depicts/refers to war & every film made during times of war. War comedies: Shoulder Arms (1918), M*A*S*H (1970) Musical Melodrama: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
THE BATTLE FOR PUBLIC OPINION:PROPAGANDA & THE COMBAT FILM War films = crucial weapons in the shaping of public opinion about a war. Preaching War and Peace Pacifist neutrality during peacetime Propagandistic to garner public support during wartime Mass Conversion: The Politics of Sergeant York Why We Fight: Education and the War Film Nationalist ideals: evoke messages of freedom, equality The Vietnam Reversal Anti-War, challenge/question morality, justness and motives, goals, purpose of war
RACE, ETHNICITY, AND THE WAR FILM Representation in films vs. reality of race relations in America at the time the film was made. Segregated units. Japanese Americans were held in internment camps and their property confiscated. Real wartime racial tension was rewritten into onscreen racial harmony; racism at home was suppressed or displaced onto another race.
CONFLICTED: THE PSYCHIC VIOLENCE OF WAR The Enemy is Us Most Vietnam War films take an antiwar stance that as critical either of U.S. political policy that led to involvement in the war or of the damage incurred by servicemen in Vietnam. Vietnam War films tend to undermine the traditional values celebrated in films about WWII and others by reversing or obscuring the clear-cut distinctions between us and the enemy. In many Vietnam War films, we become the enemy. The Aftermath The difficult adjustment of Vietnam veterans to postwar America is frequently cast in terms of conflict between them and those who stayed behind. Though the veterans of other wars are occasionally depicted as having difficulty in adjusting to civilian life, their problems remain contained within the family or the workplace; they rarely result in acts of civil disorder or criminal violence. However, the scars of the Vietnam War extended deeply into the American psyche; the clear sense of victory that characterized WWII was contrasted sharply to the sense of defeat and lack of closure that was the Vietnam War.
THE 1991 GULF WAR & WORLD WAR II REDUXThe Gulf War World War II Redux• Contemporary war films • Darker films; exploration of the shaped by the American true nature (and non- experience in Vietnam. redeeming qualities) of WWII.• It is these films • Saving Private Ryan approach to combat as a • The Thin Red Line source of personal trauma that links them to • Miracle at St. Anna (watch clip) films about the Vietnam War.
THE IRAQ WAR Few produced, limited success at box office. Majority focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brought about by psychological trauma incurred during the war. Moral: the war has traumatized the American psyche. War crime is presented as the consequence of the stress placed on American forces. In the Valley of Elah (2007) Agitprop: Political propaganda Op-Ed on Iraq War films, claims the main point omitted from Elah: …wars are lost by victims; they re won by soldiers.
MEDIATION AND REPRESENTATION The war film mediates our relationship to war, helping to prepare us for it, reconcile us to victory or defeat, and adjust us to its aftermath. The conventions of the war film continue to shape our understanding of real wars. Images of war explain why we fight; they stage and restage war s battles; and they attempt to explain why we won or lost. All contemporary wars are waged on two fronts: the battlefield and the screen. Whether we win or lose the battle, the movies are there to enable us to win the war.