Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Born On The Fourth Of July & The Best Years Of Our Lives

In each returning vet films they focus on the soldiers who individually suffer from post dramatic stress disorder, either being physically wounded or emotional traumatized. Each film focuses on soldiers returning and coping in society. But there are many differences between both films; being two totally different wars, one was won when the other was lost, the cultural change in the US, when the US government was being questioned and was acceptable to question authority and the public view differences between World War 2 and Vietnam.

In Best Years Of Our Lives and Born On The Fourth Of July both film focus on returning vets with a physical or emotional trauma and focuses on getting back into society. The wars veteran’s wounds are both physical and emotional. He is seasoned by hard experience and wary of new experience. The war veteran’s fighting spirit, however, is not necessarily diminished, although his determination to survive might be compromised and society may receive him rudely upon his return. In Born On The Fourth Of July when Ron returns home he is seen as upbeat and proud for taking part in the Vietnam war when his family and neighbours are awkward and embarrassed on his return home. However his proud family is short lived when Ron’s brother doesn’t believe in the war and represents the growing society of questioning the government why they are in Vietnam. During Independence Day parade when Ron is encountered by protestors and is seen as a “Baby Killer”.

Best Years of Our Lives shares a similar view in the post dramatic stress disorder with the three protagonists. However the outcome of the War was very different. Each narrative element in each movie closely presents and discourses of veteran’s problem in both abled and disabled veterans who now has to readjust to their new state of body or mind. Each three returning veterans have to adjust to society with different elements to post dramatic stress disorder. Homer who lost both his hands has to adjust go to his disability and accept the love of the sweet heart next door, Al who creates a habit of drinking and struggles to sleep with having anger problem and Fred who suffers from a recurrent nightmare in war with his acquisitive wife and no decent job.
Although both films show their protagonist having post dramatic stress disorder the cultural and the view on the war in both films are very different. When Fred returns home his wife is always seen pushing him to wear his uniform showing him off to friends and the public. In Born on the Fourth of July wearing the uniform during the Vietnam conflict was seen very controversial. Unlike in World War 2 when the US was fighting the Nazi’s and the Empire Of Japan the US soldiers always found themselves rounding up villagers, farmers and people who were never a threat. There was never a clear enemy for the soldiers and found themselves fighting a guerrilla warfare. “On the one hand, the veteran’s heroism and sacrifices are celebrated and memorialized and debts of gratitude, both symbolic and material, are paid to him. On the other hand the veteran also inspires anxiety and fear and is seen as a threat to social order and political stability” (Gerber 1994:546) this quote by Gerber is a great example of separating both films through different hands; the first hand representing Best Years of our Lives and the other hand representing Born on the Fourth of July.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


A coming age journey of a young man desire to join the marines like his father and grandfather and become somewhat of a war hero but instead takes a nose dive into madness and obsession for his first kill. Set in the Gulf War Swofford (Jake Gyllenhall) encounters first at hand how his voyage takes him into war and learns from first at hand the first casualty of war is ones inner self.  Watching Jarhead we first at the how modern warfare today is so very different from previous wars such as the Vietnam War. We see first at hand how Vietnam War may have had more of a death toll then the Gulf War but the psychological impact on the soldiers war far more greater being that the Vietnam War so un-glorified compared to the first and second world wars.

From an external view Jarhead is a story of a young man whose ambition in life was to become this glorified sniper returning home from battle to be greeted with parades and people waving flags. But if we look at Jarhead from an internal view Jarhead is comparing the wars between the Gulf and the Vietnam War. Comparing the two we see how both Wars so different from the public view being that the Vietnam War veterans who was spat on and Swofford in the Gulf War was welcomed back with open arms and as a hero. However his own personal battle with on conscious drives him to question what he actually did in that war? Being that he never did fire his weapon once and the never did kill an enemy. For Swofford the only real enemy of the Gulf War was the blazing heat of the Middle Eastern deserts, countless hours boredom and that his idea of the Band of Brothers of war is not memory of battles but rather him and his fellow soldiers were taking the piss out of each other and relying on each other’s sense of humour.

The perfect scenes when both wars come together is when Swofford is in the parade returning home and a Vietnam veteran jumps into the bus cheering the Gulf War soldiers for the accomplishment they done over seas.  But is cheers are short lived right away when we physically see the Vietnam veteran remembering his traumatic war and how Swofford realises that his war so very different from that veteran. If we look earlier into the film Swofford’s father is also a Vietnam veteran. In the only shot we see him in is at the very beginning when Swofford quickly sums up his life and the relationship with his family. In just one shot that’s about five seconds long we see his father wearing robe still wearing his dog tags and looking so disconnected with the outside world including his son sitting right next to him. Another example how Vietnam veterans are so traumatically affected by the Vietnam War. There’s always a constant reminder and comparing between the two wars and how soldiers from the Gulf War glorified by films like the cinema scene when watching “Full Metal Jacket” and playing Vietnam music from their helicopters but in the end it never was the same for Swofford. The only wounds he gained were the feeling of doing nothing but rewarded as a hero. Comparing the Vietnam veteran to Swofford though his war so controversial and he must of killed people when Swofford did nothing and killed no one and he is rewarded and for sees himself a phony hero.