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Who won the Vietnam War? Who lost it? These questions are barely touched up in films about the conflict. Instead we see a very different picture: troops rallying together against adversity of poor leadership, difficult terrain and uncharacterised enemies. Does this tell the real story of Vietnam? Were class, race and gender equality the realities of 60s and 70s America? No.
Popular culture played a key part in reconstructing the narratives of the Vietnam War for the United States of America. It constitutes a unique form of memorial in which the reality is secondary to the story. Stories frequently circulate stating that x per cent of children don’t know who Winston Churchill or Neil Armstrong were but what of the rewriting of history? In these films South East Asia becomes a setting for a collection of films not so much about the history of the war as the re-assertion of American masculinity.
These manifestations carry greater cultural significance now as they reach mass audiences of younger generations who may have little prior knowledge of the war. For instance, at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial visitors frequently flock to take rubbings of one name in particular: John Rambo[i]. At the end of Rambo, the eponymous character asks his commander, ‘do we get to win this time?’ The commander responds, ‘this time, it’s up to you’.
by InPEC Contributor, 7th June, 2012