Jess Doll - "Saving Private Ryan and Postwar Memory in America"
The overall argument in John Bodnar's essay, "Saving Private Ryan and Postwar Memory in America", was "That the narrative of heroism, patriotism, and democracy that permeated wartime American --the story that "Saving Private Ryan" seeks to restore only partially --began to decompose immediately in the aftermath of World War II."
To support his argument Bodnar went on to explore the historical context before WWII, using examples such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" declaration and the Office of War Information's impact over Hollywood to prove that during the 40s, "Patriotic sacrifice was contingent on assurances of a more democratic society and world" (806).
Bodnar goes on to compare and contrast several wartime films such as "The Sands of Iwo Jima" and "Home of the Brave", by examining their "narrative of heroism, patriotism, and democracy" in each film, and ultimately how war was remembered in each film to provide evidence of the change after WWII. Bodnar specifically zeros in on "Saving Private Ryan throughout his essay to support his thesis. Ultimately Bodnar believes that while "Saving Private Ryan" was able to depict the harsh realities of war, it focused to much on the individual, thus forgetting about "Democratic ideals such as the quest for equality, a just capitalism, or citizen participation in political life" (817).
Whether or not one agrees with Bodnar, his essay touches on multiple issues we have discussed in class such as the "Sahara", film noir, and the atomic bomb to name just a few. Bodnar also discusses the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Office of War Information, and most obvious the aftermath of WWII.
For example, he examines the large influence that the OWI had over Hollywood in regards to wartime films and how they were to shed war in a positive light, promoting a "people's war" (806). Later, Bodnar uses the film we viewed in class, "Sahara" as an example of "ethnic cooperation and the hatred for authoritarian regimes" (812). Bodnar also discusses film noir and its negative effects on the souls of Americans during the 1940s (812). Also discussed in this essay is the build up of technology, specifically the Cold War and the rise of the atomic bomb. Mentioned are the effects it had on American citizens such as anxiety and fear of possible yet unimaginable brutality (809).
Thus, this article examined many aspects discussed in class, specifically the aftermath of WWII (build up of nuclear weapons, the end of the holocaust, etc.) which produced evidence for Bodnar's thesis, stating that after WWII, postwar memory in American was altered in a negative way and the democratic ideals fostered in the 1940s had faded.