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Candice Dehnbostel-Apocalypse Now


“Apocalypse Now� is a hugely important film in how it portrays America and American ideologies during the Vietnam War. The film shows the effects of napalm on the countryside, bullet-laden villagers and psychologically confused soldiers. Director Francis Ford Coppola used this film as a social commentary on U.S. imperialism and American Exceptionalism, both of which were present during the war in Vietnam. Tomasulo argues the film is both pro- and anti-war because of the ambivalence of the U.S. people surrounding the war. Yet, I would argue against this statement because that ambivalence turned into strong opposition when Americans saw the reality of the war. With the first televised war came an outpouring of war protests and anti-war films, songs and attitudes.

Tomasulo uses the title, “Apocalypse Now,� as an example of the film’s pro-war side because it envisages destruction (p. 149). The title, in the context of the entire film, would seem to lend itself more to the destruction caused to the people (soldiers and Vietnamese), the environment (jungles and Army base life) and Social Gospel values of equality, freedom and sense of community. The village of Charlie’s Point, full of children, is annihilated by American soldiers with glee. The terrain and jungles are destroyed by tons of bombs and napalm. Soldiers are forced in tiny boats, crowded USO arenas and thick jungles. Vietnamese people are trying to fight who they consider oppressors, while American soldiers can’t decipher who is the enemy. None of this is making a pro-war statement. Tomasulo argues the scene involving the village on Charlie’s Point “excites the viewer viscerally� and “glorifies war and its godlike heroes� (p. 149). Yet, the scene seems to showcase the psychological disconnect from the helicopters flying above the village and the villagers’ simple lives below. Tomasulo’s “gung ho response� of the helicopters depicts Americans as eager to kill and conquer than bring democracy and freedom. America takes on the role of international bully and comes across as self-aggrandizing, just as the government led Americans to believe we could win any war that we involved ourselves in. Tomasulo seems read “Apocalypse Now� as a pro-war film from the perspective of a Hawk. Yet, the film does allow Americans to place the Vietnam War behind them, from an anti-war perspective, because it acknowledges the missteps and blunders caused by the American government instead of trying to forget.