Because I worked long hours on Monday and Tuesday, I was able to leave a few hours early yesterday. If I had planned a bit better, I might have stopped by the library to get a movie or two for us to watch.
Ah well, that's why we have home collections, right? Yesterday, we decided to watch Good Morning, Vietnam. Not exactly Christmas viewing, but it worked out. Besides, we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on Tuesday night, and once you've seen that, all else pales in comparison.
I first saw this movie back in 1988. I had taken a vow after seeing Platoon that I was done with Vietnam War movies. But since Good Morning, Vietnam starred Robin Williams, I made an exception. Then and now, I think that the movie does a good job of showing the complexity of that war, especially as it was lived by servicemen (and there were no servicewomen in this movie) on the ground away from the main fighting.
When I first saw the movie, I had just taken an upper level Sociology class on the conflict. I thought I could take that class and understand the war once and for all--ah, the naivete of youth! I watched the movie and primarily reflected on the experience of the Vietnamese and how it must have felt to have your country invaded, first by the French and then by the U.S.
As I watched yesterday, I thought about the doomed romantic feelings of Adrian Cronauer for the young Vietnamese woman. I realized that he wasn't offering her anything like marriage; he just wanted to hang out with her. She knows that proper young women don't do that, and she rejects him. But what if he had wanted to marry her? Would she have been better off?
I'd have to research that more. After so many decades of war, would a communist regime feel that bad? Would it be better to leave one's homeland if it meant freedom? But would freedom be worth the cost of being the eternal outsider?
I also thought about the timeline of the movie and the making of the movie. The movie is set in 1965; it's made in 1987, 20 years later. We know how the conflict ends, which must have informed the making of the movie in many ways. Would Cronauer's friend who turns out to be a terrorist/freedom fighter really have argued his case so eloquently? Would it really have been possible for them to develop any amount of closeness or was it just a convenient way to insert that politicized speech into the movie?
I've been hearing a lot about the film Zero Dark Thirty, and as I watched Good Morning, Vietnam, I wondered how filmmakers would be approaching the wars of the Middle East in 20 years. What will we know about those conflicts in two decades that we don't know now?
I also kept thinking of this classic bit from The Princess Bride: "You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha, you fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well-known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!'"
We still don't seem to be able to remember that lesson. Here we are, 47 years after the year in which Good Morning, Vietnam is set, and we're involved in not one, but two land wars in Asia. Sigh.
It's probably time to return to Christmas viewing. I need that message that A Charlie Brown Christmas gives me, that Advent message that love redeems us all, from the most meager manger in a distant outpost of the Roman empire to the skimpiest little pine tree to the boy who thinks that Christmas is a holiday designed to remind him of his unworthiness.
The Summer of Reading
2 months ago