Scarlette Nhi Do
The University of Melbourne
Scarlette Nhi Do’s examination of representations of Vietnamese identity in Vietnamese War films. First paragraph:
I watched Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020) with my heart in my throat. My body was sick with the anticipation instilled by years of watching Hollywood representations of the Vietnam War (1955–1975) and the East Asian Other. To be precise, I anticipated the miscommunication between American G.I.s and Vietnamese villagers, the resulting escalation of suspense, and the seemingly inevitable aftermath, wherein the villagers are massacred for either refusing to give up the Viet Cong, or simply not understanding English. Such an order of events crops up in Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) with the titular troop ultimately setting the village ablaze, and in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) with a Vietnamese family gunned down out of mere suspicion. In these instances, the Vietnamese people – my people – are depicted like walking skeletons that barely utter anything comprehensible, even to the ears of those who speak and grew up with the Vietnamese language. Their motivations, struggles, humanity appear up to interpretation by the present G.I.s, who can mediate and filter the Vietnamese’s actions and reactions through the hostile imperial gaze.
Keywords: Vietnam War, representation, Vietnamese, film