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late hegemonic fantasy: the pacific

with 2 comments

Just watched the first two episodes of The Pacific on Sky Movies. Stirring and scary yes, but also can’t help but feel that what I’m watching is a some sort of desperate projection of American nostalgic fantasy about the last time that we were outgunned, undermanned, underfed, often injured and generally in dire straits but we won. (It’s no wonder that the Battle of Khe Sahn during the Vietnam War plays a similarly iconic role in the American [filmic] subconscious). The colonel in charge of the unit we’re following even at one point, in the face of throwing what’s barely left of his Marine division against the entire Japanese army, reiterates an order from above: if this goes badly, you’ll retreat to the jungle and fight as guerrillas. To which all involved respond, fuck no, sir. We’re almost guerrillas, we might well have become guerrillas, but we’re never in the end guerrillas. And we watch as the desperate Marines manning the machine guns, constantly low on ammo, mow down hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese infantrymen. (At one point, in an act of medal-winning bravery, someone has to go clear a pile of bodies from the breach in the barbed wire fence in order to create a free-fire zone…) Sometimes, after the battles, the more thoughtful of the Americans go and look at the family pictures that the Japs carry in their bags. Once, one of them even finds a child’s doll in the satchel of the dead. But in another case, when these undermanned Americans send a medic out to help a terminally injured Jap, the latter pulls the pin on a grenade to blow the aiding hands and bodies to pieces. Bastards.

So why is this necessary right now? Well, there’s this sort of thing, which I really recommend you watch, and which I found via Chained to the Cinematheque:

I keep wondering (see below) whether videos like this one, which seem to represent in their depiction of the distractedly distanced killing perpetrated by US troops (which of course continues – or in fact intensifies into the primary US tactic for dealing with international insurgencies) some sort of semi-omnipotent Playstation-style control of the battlefield, actually augur something else, a sort of existential or mass-psychological or even material over-reach. That, if I could guess, is exactly the anxiety that constitutes the political unconscious of the Tom Hanks’s HBO production that I watched tonight. But this may or may not be wishful thinking. Understandable, I suppose, for me to construct fantasies about the failure of national projects that involve severely injuring children in the back of a van that their father’s driven to pick up a dying Reuters employee and deliver him to a hospital and then denying said children proper medical treatment.

Anyway, in case you’re new to the blog, here’s a previous (and more interesting) post on a parallel topic. And actually another one here, originally written for n+1’s website but they couldn’t sort out the coding issues with the embedded videos. I’m actually currently attempting to finish a small bit of fiction on this subject that I’ve been working on forever… We’ll see – maybe the awful video above has given me the spur that I need.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 6, 2010 at 12:42 am

Posted in distraction, Television, war

2 Responses

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  1. Great post; I’ve always enjoyed your blog.

    What I find amazing is the extent to which WW2 serves as a bottomless well for salving the ideological confusions of contemporary American culture. The obsessive revisitation of these moments of scrappy “derring-do” from a conflict that wrapped up about 65 years ago should indicate to us something unsettling about our attitudes about contemporary conflicts.

    The “death from above” element of the wikileaks video, that detached affect the soldiers maintain as they go about their business… it doesn’t square with the anachronistic image Americans have of their conduct in wartime, the sepia-toned vision of a “band of brothers” crawling up the ridge with determination. (Such a vision probably doesn’t square well with the horrifying reality of WW2 either, but that’s a subject for another comment.)

    Dale

    April 6, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  2. You’ve done a wonderful interpretation of this war so bad, but thank you.

    sikiş

    April 27, 2010 at 7:44 am


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