Hollywood’s portrayal of the Vietnam War

Hundreds of Hollywood movies have documented the Vietnam War. Some are very powerful in educating the general public and younger generations about the war. However, there is a risk that they may be made giving a false representation of events, or even misleading.

Every year at the end of April America remembers the fall of Saigon and TV networks show a myriad of documentaries, television shows and movies about the Vietnam War such as Apocalypse Now, The Quiet American, Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter and Platoon.

The Deer Hunter, made in 1978, tells the story of three Russian-American workers who journey to Vietnam and are taken prisoner by the Communist Viet Cong troops. The Vietnamese force the prisoners to gamble, playing the game Russian roulette. The prisoners eventually escape, but have become addicted to the game and seek out the game at illegal gambling dens. One of the ex-prisoners ends up committing suicide from the experience.

Some believe that the movie trivializes what happened in Vietnam and is an insult to the plight of the Vietnamese and American soldiers who fought in the war. When the film was originally released it did cause a lot of controversy, particularly there is no evidence that the Viet Cong even played Russian roulette.

Apocalypse Now, meanwhile, is another movie applauded by the film industry in America. However, some believe it is a prejudiced portrayal of Vietnam during the war.

Using the backdrop of European colonization, the movie follows a man called Kurtz and his rule over the local people and is based on the Joseph Conrad novel, Heart of Darkness.

The movie version showcases warfare and its destructive nature. One scene shows Kurtz talking about a group of Viet Cong soldiers who he watched cut off the arms of children, who the US had paid and provided polio vaccinations for. But it is unclear whether anything like this ever happened.

Therefore many critics suggest that again this film trivializes and does not stick to the truth of a war that killed more than two million people, the Thanhnien News reports.

The central theme of the movie tries to show empathy or similarities between humans no matter where they are from.

The director, Oliver Stone’s movies are said to be more near the truth than any of the others. These include Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, and Heaven and Earth. However the young, naïve characters portrayed in these movies are also widely criticized.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE