The Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies present:
America at War Again… Re-imagining the ‘American Soldier’ in the Iraq War Movie Cycle (2005-2009)
Professor Martin Barker
Friday 19th November, 11am – David Puttnam Media Centre (room 233)
It is well-known that Hollywood (well, with the whacky exception of John Wayne in The Green Berets) backed away from dealing with the Vietnam war until it was safely over. Even so, ‘the media’ were wi! dely blam with the result that film companies might have been expected to play very safe when it came to the Iraq conflict. Actually, the story this time round is much more complicated. Between 2005-9 a large number of films have emerged from in and around Hollywood, dealing pretty directly with both Iraq and Afghanistan (and that is not including those which deal with it allegorically, such (notoriously) as the ‘torture porn’ cycle).
For the last three years I have been tracking the emergence of this cycle of films, up to its climax and (I will argue) closure with The Hurt Locker, looking at their production and publicity regimes (in the face of widely circulating predictions of! their fa distribution (often using specialist channels), their use of a range of ‘Indie’ formal features, and their reception. This has brought into view a series of debates within American culture generally, in particular around how it is permissible to discuss ‘the American soldier’, whose existing mages have gone into meltdown after revelations such as those from Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. I will explore three main ways that this crisis has been ‘resolved’ in the films: a ‘crisis of the soul’; an appeal to posttraumatic stress disorder, and the construction of a new critical image centred on the Latino soldier. These ‘solutions’ carry much wider implications of considerable significance, I will argue.