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‘What A Bummer for the Gooks’: representations of white American masculinity and the Vietnamese in the Vietnam War film genre 1977–87

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Abstract:

This article discusses how Hollywood’s Vietnam War genre 1977-87 articulated the racial discourses of American imperialism through a masculine/feminine division, considering the emergence of the genre’s sculpted torsos, symbolizing American virility, alongside the political ascendancy of the New Right. A strong, masculinized America reciprocates an effete Vietnam, mobilizing Oriental femininity already present in white imperial discourses. But the anxiety of white America, whose imperial expansion was perceived to begin to decline in Vietnam, expresses itself through ‘soft-bodied’ Americans, vulnerable to Oriental duplicity and sadism. This article emphasizes the interaction of racial and gender discourses, and their role in the remembrance of the Vietnam War.

Keywords: American masculinity; Hollywood genre; Orientalism; Vietnam War; Vietnamese; race

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/ejac.22.3.215/0

Affiliations: University of Exeter

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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