Popularising the navy, rewriting the past: contemporary naval films

Jonathan Rayner

in The Naval War Film

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780719070983
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701157 | DOI:
Popularising the navy, rewriting the past: contemporary naval films

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Since the 1980s, the preponderance of military representation in American cinema speaks to a (re)militarisation of the state and populace, correcting the defeat and defeatism of Vietnam. The pervasiveness of war films, war toys and popular images of conflict is noted as a prerequisite for the heightening of patriotism, the identification of enemies and the propagation of ideological norms. The fabrication of an adversarial relationship can be seen in the title of Behind Enemy Lines, and implies factors non-existent in the Balkan War, which are necessary to narrativise and rationalise an otherwise indecipherable, recalcitrant war. Reintroduction of such features presents a scenario in which American forces can intervene clearly and decisively, and reconfirm their superiority in the process. In this regard, the recreation of World War II serves a supplementary purpose. The repetitious history of Pearl Harbor, the rewritten history of U-571, the redeemed history of Flight of the Intruder and the revalued recent history of Behind Enemy Lines all evince such contemporaneous values and encodings.

Keywords: American cinema; defeatism of Vietnam; Behind Enemy Lines; Flight of Intruder; Pearl Harbor; U-57

Chapter.  14936 words. 

Subjects: Film

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