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Sarvesh Gujarathi


The Green Berets - A perfect failure

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4 months ago
4 months ago
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Cinema is the most exciting mean of communication in today’s world, having the ability to steer mass population into a certain direction. Cinema, likewise has been used to communicate certain ideas, be it good or bad, by the authority towards its people.Cinema possess the ability to communicate stories for the audience to sympathize with the protagonist. A new term of propaganda films came into existence, so as to make the population aware of certains actions taken by the authority. Films like these were used to convey biases, so subtly that it seems to be true. This has been the case going on for several years. War films, sometimes fall under this bracket. And as the widely recognized father of modern banking has said “The Nation which controls the cinema can control the thought of the world”. During the time of World War I, countries like Britain, United States and Germany , churned out propaganda films to as to invoke a sense of nationalism in their respective citizens. Same was the case seen during the Vietnam war. Films like The Green Beret gave the american propaganda for the vietnam war a new meaning. Years later if we take a look at these films, the propaganda can be clearly pointed out and expressed.

Americans have been known to use this form of media to regulate the information to its people since the first World War. One such example is when in the year of 1918 came a motion picture named "Hearts of the World" where the Allies were showing moral integrity and grit even with German horror. This is regular of propaganda movies of that time, which, by criticizing the enemy as evil, kept up help for an outrageous war. This film was made with the invitation of the British High Command which makes it clear to be a very good political step. This one of the many films releasing with the help of the authority. By the second World War, the film industry was established and the government started working with the hollywood and using this powerful tool, to promote the war. These films came out in revolt of the enemies such as the Germans and the Japanese. The American government thus proved to use this medium is such an impactful way that, their citizens became ignorant of the american war strategies.

The Green Berets - John Wayne

There were protests and criticism about the american invasion in the Vietnam war, one distressed american filmmaker in John Wayne stood up in support of his government’s policies. John Wayne is a vocal anti communist and a conservative republican. Nonetheless he always expressed his support for the nation and proved to be true patriot. Therefore without any second thought he trusted the rectitudinous of the American cause and wanted to express his views through a film. This gave him the idea to make The Green Berets.He always stood up for his support towards the then President. He took inspiration from the Robin Moore’s experiences during this Vietnam War. John Wayne received prior permission to make this film with liberty. The then government supported this cause and allowed him to use the lavish props and military bases for this film. So Wayne received the appropriate assistance from the government to make this film

The film revolves around Colonel Mike Kirby ( John Wayne ) and his missions in the vietnam war. He is the part of the US Special Force - The Green Berets. He, along with, his extremely hard working team firstly defend a firebase from the wrath of the mighty VietCong. This firebase is invaded and the team recuses it. Their second mission is to capture a VietCong commander, which he executes with his special team. Their team is accompanied in both the missions, by a war correspondent, George Beckwith who criticizes the war and how it is executed but by the end is convinced of it

Wayne uses every second of his film to get his objectives justified and does not lose the focus to do so. Right from the opening credits, Wayne uses the film and its screen to spread a word about nationalism. The background score in the opening credits say that “ Fighting Soldiers from the sky, fearless men who jump and die. Men who mean just what they say, the brave men of the Green Beret.” This happens to be the ballad of the Green Berets. This establishes the entire film for us and what else will follow through. The film does not use subtlety and gets its message through. The film portrays the VietCong as the enemy from the first scene and thus we sympathize with the american Green Berets.

Soldiers in the film, as put by Wayne, are brave men having soft hearts. They are ready to fight for the nation to any limit. Soldiers are willing to participate and volunteer for the nation and its cause. These warriors, in a straight conversation, justify their need to fight the war for the country. Upon being questioned for the war, the berets explain, the cause for the war and it not being just a Vietnam civil war but a war against communism. They explain the that Vietnam has influences as weaponry from other big and powerful states, and US is doing its part to save itself. Wayne’s this portrayal of soldiers makes the audience sympathize with them. The audience almost follows the journey of the berets and live it. The cause of the war, as coming from the brave soldiers also make the audience believe it. The soldiers, in the film, dedicate their entire life for the war. One instance can be noted, a soldier’s want for a monument or a street to be named for his sacrifice, as this would make him worthy of being an american.

Another thing Wayne tries do is, put down the VietCong and its leaders by making them seem like the criminals who have caused the war and harm to their own people from Vietnam. Wayne shows that the VietCong have weak morals and they succumb to other worldly pleasures. Upon comparing them directly to the protagonists, the green berets, audience instantly categorizes the VietCong into a negative commune of evil people. By hinting at their morals, Wayne justifies the american action of war and its use of violence. The film mostly focuses upon the hardships faced by the people from Vietnam because of the VietCong and thus defends the american interference. Vietnamese commoners are shown as helpless people who want to be freed in their own nation. On the contrary, the american soldiers are shown as people, with love and affection. One example of this, a Green Beret soldier going out of his way to help a small vietnamese child, who lost his entire family due to the VietCong. The vietnamese child then gets attached to the soldier, making the beret his family. Subplots like these, makes the audiences subconsciously side with the American soldiers and creates an image against the VietCong

Wayne uses a war correspondent who represents the entire mentality of the american citizens to make his objective more definite. The american war correspondent reflects the american citizens and their thought process. He is seen criticizing the war and how it is implemented. The film is also his journey of being a critic to supporting the cause. He travels to Vietnam with the american green berets and becomes the part of their mission. He experiences, the entire war and understands the hardships faced by the Green berets. The film is also his transition from being a critic to being a part.

Effects of the film

Wayne’s this film is truly a propaganda film, trying to manipulate the audience in a specific manner. This film creates an illusion in the mind of the audience making it the most perfect form of propaganda. It grabs the audience's attention and does not fail to lose it. By the end of the film, it definitely makes a person think about the VietCong and the American invasion it. The film justifies the entire controversy leaving no stones unturned and does not fail to raise a spirit of nationalism. But the film loses out on facts and doesn't get the expected reaction out of it. One of the reasons for its bad reaction was the fact that John Wayne disguised his motive to be the glory of the Green Berets but what the film showed was otherwise. The film was full of cliches in a very old fashioned way. Many critics shunned the movie publicly. Roger Ergert, renowned film critic and journalist says “ The Green Berets simply will not do as a film about the war in Vietnam. It is offensive not only to those who oppose American policy but even to those who support it.

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