North American Postmodern Fiction and Film, Spring 2000
Reasons and Consequences in the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam civil war
Different names for Vietnam war: an imperialist war, revolution, a civil war for reunification, a guerrilla war, a media war, an American civil war

reasons & historical facts  Consequencescultural representations of Vietnam war


  1. World savior, Manifest Destiny, the myth of the (last) frontier e.g. Why Are We in Vietnam? (Norman Mailer: Texas, Alaska--Vietnam)
  2. domino theory
  3. conservatism in the 60's; optimism and nationalism inspired by JFK; the babyboomer generation
History: the country divided in 1954; the U.S.'s involvement since around 1955; support forces arriving since 1961, intense bombing since 1965, withdrawal since 1969, and the total withdrawal in 1973, a few months after a ceasefire was signed in Jan. The fall of Saigon in May 1975. Strategies used: helicopter bombing, attrition (the repeated taking and abandoning of the same territory in pursuit of a high enemy 'body count'), pacification (involving intrusion into villages for enemy caches of documents and supplies)

immediate ones: Atrocities: A. American side:
  1. Vietnamese side
consequences in the U.S.: another civil war -- the anti-war movement

long-term consequences: 1.the displaced Vietnamese Amerasians, Vietnamese refugees

cultural representations of Vietnam war
    national denial at first, then burst of interest in Vietnam in late 70's -- e.g. memoirs, fiction and films on "Vietnam war"
  1. the vets as misfits -- suicidal, criminal, (e.g. Taxi Driver 1976, Deer Hunter 1978, In Country 1989)
  2. superhero(re-masculinization of U.S. culture): First Blood, Rambo; musical: Ms Saigon
  3. killing and other forms of brutality-- Platoon; Born on the Fourth of July;
  4. Sexist:
  1. anti-myth--Apocalypse Now 1979
  2. "the other side of heaven" --  e.g. Heaven and Earth, Surname Viet Last Name Nam

  3. confusion of reality   A. Hollywood vs. reality (The Stunt Man and Forrest Gump)
    (1980 Harris Survey¡X91% "lad they served their country"; 74% "enjoyed their time in the service" 72% agreed with the statement: "the trouble in Vietnam was that our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders would not let them win."

    B. The Stunt Man, Slaughter-house V (1972)¡XArmies of the Night (Norman Mailer)

  1. women's versions In Country (the novel) Democracy (Joan Didion)
comic versions Good Morning Vietnam, Forrest Gump