The Vietnam War was possibly one of the toughest times in American history, there was no escaping or evading the fact that America lost it’s first war. Vietnam was not just a war abroad but also a war at home, an internal war, resulting in a broken country after the loss. One of the many widespread issues with Vietnam was that it was a living room war; this was the first war that was televised and manipulated in order for the media to receive ratings and viewers, being extremely biased in the way it was portrayed. Also biased are the films that were made about Vietnam; the most well-known of these war films are: Born on the 4th of July, Platoon, and Rambo: First Blood. While viewing these films it is evident to see how the veterans were treated and how the overall sense of nationalism decreased tremendously throughout the many years the war took place. All of these films can be classified into a specific type of narrative: quest narrative, chaos narrative, restitution narrative, or docudrama. These films also share many common underlying themes such as: realism (or lack of), loss of masculinity, personal epistemology, and the non visual enemy. It is not just a coincidence that all of these different films with different stories and objectives all contain the same themes and messages; it is evident that these themes and portrayals are relevant issues that remained in the minds of all Americans during and after the war.
In Marita Sturken’s article Reenactment and the Making of History: The Vietnam Olney 2
War as a Docudrama, she presents us with the different types of Vietnam War film narratives: restitution, quest, chaos, and docudramas. A restitution narrative can be defined as a full circle film: starting at healing, then to illness, and finally back to healing (Sturken 85). An example of this can be seen in the movie Born on the 4th of July where we see the veteran Ron Kovic injured and recovering in a hospital after being paralyzed in war, healing. After Ron is discharged from the hospital he returns to his parents home where they must take care of him; this causes Ron to become mentally unstable because he cannot take care of himself, nor can he get over the fact that he must be dependent on his parents once again, illness. Towards the end of the movie is when Ron begins to accept the fact that he is now paralyzed and cannot do everything he once could, full circle back to healing.
A quest narrative, according to Sturken, can be defined as a film in which the Vietnam War is portrayed as a learning experience for the veteran and thus him taking control of his own recovery (Sturken 93). An example of a quest narrative can be seen in the movie Platoon where Chris Taylor has no idea where he is going in life and decides to volunteer for the Army. In Vietnam, Taylor finds himself transforming into who he is suppose to be in the jungles of Vietnam. The film results in Taylor becoming a man and discovering not only himself, but also his beliefs and outlooks on life, a learning experience.
Sturken defines chaos narrative as a film that has no specific order of events and seemingly no purpose or explanation throughout the film, but it all comes together and makes sense in the end (Sturken 95). The theory of chaos narratives can be seen in both
Born on the 4th of July and Rambo: First Blood. Born on the 4th of July can be characterized as a chaos narrative because as you are watching the movie you do not see the purpose of many of the events, or the meaning behind them, but as the film progresses you later see how it is tied all together. Rambo is a chaos narrative because the viewer sees nothing but action throughout the film with no real explanation as to why it is all happening; it is obvious that there is no definite order going on and we are overwhelmed with all the events happening so quickly. There is also hopelessness present throughout the film and...