Help a 13 y/o get to know the Amercian soldier.
September 3, 2009 12:30 PM   Subscribe

What resources (films, books, websites) can I share with my 13 y/o daughter who has expressed a recent keen admiration and care for the American soldier from the Vietnam War era to the present?

I recently took my 13 y/o daughter to see The Hurt Locker, after which she expressed a deeply felt admiration for the American soldier. I told her that not everyone feels the same way; and that, especially after the Vietnam War, soldiers were subject to quite a bit of disrespect when they returned home. She was really interested in his phenomenon and I would like to direct her to some resources (films, books, websites) that help her explore it and empathize with the existential experiences of the American soldier both on the battlefield and at home.
posted by keith0718 to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Things They Carried
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Born on the Fourth of July (film and book)
posted by burnmp3s at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2009

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brian is a classic book on the subject. I've always been fond of the bit on the "true war story that never happened." I bet she would enjoy Good Morning Vietnam too. Perhaps The Quiet American. And maybe there is a vet she can talk to? Hearing it first-hand from a soldier is far more meaningful.
posted by zachlipton at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2009

Well, I was coming in to suggest both The Things They Carried and The Quiet American. I would add to that the documentary Fog of War, as well as Robert McNamara's In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam.

My father served in the war and I'm always amazed by how little we learned in school. Those three books best helped me parse my Dad's stories against growing up in a generation whose parents were all young when the war happened, but whose peers seemed not be kids of a veteran generation. If that sentence makes any sense.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:48 PM on September 3, 2009

If she understands satire and satirical commentary, I don't think in either form that M*A*S*H would be inappropriate.
posted by zizzle at 12:51 PM on September 3, 2009

They Marched into Sunlight is an excellent book pairing a battle in Vietnam with a contemporaneous protest at the University of Wisconsin. There's also an American Experience episode dealing with the same events.

nthing The Things They Carried; I read it at 15 or so and it triggered a continuing interest in the Vietnam War and the 60s.
posted by pombe at 1:10 PM on September 3, 2009

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
posted by Pollomacho at 1:12 PM on September 3, 2009

Dispatches, by Michael Herr. By a journalist, but about soldiers.

If the 13-year old likes comics, the first collection of the Nam is actually pretty good. Later it got silly.

Much more difficult, but probably the best thing I've read, A Bright Shining Lie. That's probably for a 17-year old, due to density, but kids vary.

Tour of Duty wasn't bad, especially the first season. I watched that at 13 with my veteran dad, and it was a helpful way to talk to him about his time in Vietnam.

All of these have been at one time or other approved as at least "not awful" by said vet dad.

All of these are adult media, and Vietnam and soldiers as subjects have a lot of adult concepts (sex and drugs, obviously, but also the more tricky man's-inhumanity-to-man stuff which is what I had trouble with at 13). So pre-reading or co-reading is advised.
posted by feckless at 1:15 PM on September 3, 2009

M.A.S.H. was set in the Korean War; totally different generation.
posted by Houstonian at 1:23 PM on September 3, 2009

Not exactly something for a 13-year-old girl, but the original Rambo movie, First Blood, was framed by the experience of the soldier coming home. And while certainly an action movie, it was significantly less cartoony than the sequels.

Rambo: It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:40 PM on September 3, 2009

Maybe a little bit over her age level, but The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford (the book that later became Full Metal Jacket) was an eye-opener for me, as well as Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War (which I read at 17 in my honors government class back then).

You may want to pick up the works of Chris Hedges and give them a look-see yourself, as Hedges' first book informs a lot of The Hurt Locker. Ditto anything by Mark Boal, who was the screenwriter for Hurt Locker.

(My ex-Ranger coworker says the movie isn't entirely accurate-- it's obviously juiced-up for audience entertainment factor-- but that the IED sequences are right in line with what he saw in Iraq. However, no drinking on base, and definitely no sneaking around urban areas alone.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:40 PM on September 3, 2009

It isn't pretty and it doesn't pull any punches, but if she's old enough to go see The Hurt Locker, she can handle watching/reading Generation Kill. It's a non-fiction account of the first months of the American invasion of Iraq written by a reporter embedded with 1st Recon. Rather than an account of what happened, it becomes more of a story of who the men are, what they do and why they do it. It humanises 'The Troops' and their experiences out in the field, in both good and bad.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2009

Also on the documentary side, there is the film Army of One that follows three new US Army recruits in their various experiences in joining the military.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:05 PM on September 3, 2009

I came in here to say Generation Kill and was beaten to it.
posted by The Michael The at 2:15 PM on September 3, 2009

Two films that both feature a lot of vietnam soldiers talking about the whole thing critically are Hearts and Minds and Sir! No Sir!. There's also the new "This Is Where We Take Our Stand," about a bunch of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are now working to end the wars.
posted by history is a weapon at 2:22 PM on September 3, 2009

Tim O'Brien is my absolute favorite living author, but I came in here to recommend Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers as a better introduction point to Vietnam lit. I remember reading it when I was her age; I haven't read it since then but it immediately came to mind. Some of the themes and narrative devices in The Things We Carried are more advanced, though I'm sure she would still enjoy it.
posted by kyleg at 3:25 PM on September 3, 2009


M.A.S.H. was set in the Korean War; totally different generation.

Both the movie and TV show are widely regarded as being more an allegory about the Vietnam War than they are about the Korean War. From David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War (p. 4):
Ostensibly about Korea, the film was really about Vietnam, and came out in 1970, at the high-water mark of popular protest against that war...As such Korea was a cover from the start for a movie about Vietnam; director Altman and the screenwriter, Ring Lardner, Jr., were focused on Vietnam but thought it was too sensitive a subject to be treated irreverently. Notably, the men and officers in the film wear the shaggy haircuts of the Vietnam years, not the crew cuts of the Korean era.
According to Altman, "That was my intention entirely. If you look at that film, there’s no mention of what war it is."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:48 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

While I scrolled down intending to say that M.A.S.H. the movie is largely about Vietnam (or at least the universal aspects of war) it's not true that there's no mention of Korea in the movie. There's a title card at the beginning of the film that quotes Eisenhower's "I will go to Korea" campaign promise. There's also at least one mention of Seoul.
posted by Jahaza at 6:13 PM on September 3, 2009

Coming Home is wonderful, but you might want to pre-screen it -- there's a lengthly cunninglingus scene in the middle of the film.

While Overlord is about WWII, it was made during the Vietnam era and has a universal quality. The protagonist is a boy-next-door who's drafted into the British Army and sees his first action on D-Day. While the story resembles An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge, the film has a great verite quality that would make it accessible to someone who wants to learn more about war and the military experience. Trailer.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:38 AM on September 4, 2009

Oh, to repeat what the more clued-in adults have said above, you should read through The Things They Carried first or, at least, be prepared for its impact. It's disturbing. It was very disturbing to me--not the rawness of the language, but the rawness of the death--and I was a bit older than 13 (where "a bit" means it wasn't published yet when I was still 13) when I first read it. There's a bit of cruelty with a dog, for instance, that made me sick to my stomach for hours. The Quiet American, on the other hand, is very subtle. Clearly, she's expressed an interest in the topic, so I would guess she's willing to challenge herself, but one of the singular things about VietNam narratives is the inability to reduce them to the same good/bad hero/anti-hero that we were accustomed to in our WWII or Civil War narratives.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:21 AM on September 4, 2009

Actually, the images of Vietnam veterans being hated upon are almost entirely false.
posted by Citrus at 7:59 AM on September 4, 2009

« Older Original Andrews Sisters Arrangements   |   Is my identity being stolen? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.