Meeting the Vietnamese

New perspectives on the war in Good Morning Vietnam and Heaven and Earth

Essay, 2008

11 Pages, Grade: 2,3

Abstract or Introduction

The traumatic experiences of their own troops and the fact that they were fighting against a largely invisible enemy may provide a hint at why U.S. film-makers hardly yielded any space to the depiction of the Vietnamese in the first major portrayals of the Vietnam War. The expectation of a failure at the box office was probably even more decisive. The Vietnamese point of view was at first almost completely ignored. The representation of the Vietnamese was mostly reduced to the fulfilment of merely functional purposes. In films like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter they are either victimized or demonized, while in Hamburger Hill they may be promoted to the role of “formidable enemies” but are otherwise left in the dark. There is no discernible effort made in these films to take a closer look at either the Vietnamese or at their country.
This changes with Barry Levinson’s Good Morning Vietnam and Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth. While the former is based on the experiences of an American in Vietnam, the latter builds upon two autobiographical books by a Vietnamese woman, Le Ly Hayslip. Thus, whereas in Levinson’s film Vietnamese people form an integral part for the experiences of the American protagonist, Oliver Stone constructs his entire narrative around the life and character of his Vietnamese protagonist Le Ly Hayslip.
Eventually therefore, both films convey representations of a culture that the American target audience is not familiar with. This paper strives to explore the strategies and techniques that both films employ to this end. What are their respective approaches? What assumptions do they seem to hold about Vietnam and its people? Which aspects do the films share and where do they differ? Apart from the central aspects of the country and the people inhabiting it, the topics of tradition, dignity, subversion as well as the role of atrocities will be discussed.


Meeting the Vietnamese
New perspectives on the war in Good Morning Vietnam and Heaven and Earth
University of Cape Town  (Department of Historical Studies)
Hollywood & Vietnam
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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474 KB
meeting, vietnamese, good, morning, vietnam, heaven, earth
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Arndt Schmidt (Author), 2008, Meeting the Vietnamese, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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