The frontier hero in Vietnam - Reconstruction of a myth
In terms of methodology it will be worthwhile first to take a closer look at the theory of collective memory in order to understand its relevance for a nation’s self-understanding and the way that society’s individual members rely on it. In a next step, the concepts of Turner’s frontier myth thesis as well as Kennedy’s New Frontier will be outlined in order to point out the contents of the nation’s mythology and to determine elements to look out for in films. As we will see, the figure of the individual frontier hero will be of paramount importance. Finally, the main part will focus on the way in which the U.S. frontier myth and particularly the frontier hero actually figure within some Hollywood representations of the war. What is the appearance of the frontier heroes and what experiences do they make on the New Frontier in Vietnam? How can these experiences be characterized and set against the traditional qualities of the frontier myth?
Within the framework of this paper, the choice of films must necessarily be exemplary. The three films that will be discussed here are among the most widely distributed films dealing with the Vietnam War. Moreover, as I hope to demonstrate in this paper, they are exemplary for three different ways of responding to the threat that this war posed to the frontier myth: its assertion, its transformation and its dismissal.