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Cycnos | Volume 21 n°2

L’ennemi invisible : les Vietnamiens dans les films de guerre américains

This study is based upon Roland Barthes’s definition of « myth » as draining history of real content and turning it into intemporal « nature » for ideological purposes. Its object is the canon of Vietnam War films as a genre, from 1978 (The Deer Hunter) to 1994 (Forrest Gump), and representations or misrepresentations of the Vietnamese as an ideological stake. Two types of constructions seem to dominate the genre : an identification of the Vietnamese as essentially of nature, therefore negatively as wild and uncivilised, naturally sadistic and cowardly- effeminate, or else as ‘bon sauvages’, with an element of nostalgia, the country being construed as a lost paradise of missed opportunities symbolized by the fate of the mama-san and her offspring. These representations are not characteristic of Hollywood movies, they are an extension of the official doctrine of the sixties, and of wartime documentaries. In the eighties, the right wing thinktanks that backed the Reagan administration also consciously sought to regain lost ideological ground. Re-appropriations of the past allowed the staging of ceremonies of forgiveness which eventually paved the way to thankful oblivion.

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