329--Week 13 Questions/Comments

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1 Movie as secondary source about the past (What did it get right? What did it get wrong?)

a Right:

The movie did a great job showing the PTSD of Ron and the other vets. They seemed to have genuine problems dealing with the things that happened during the war. He frequently had flash backs to the critical seen from the war to him in the village. He had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he killed a member of his unit. Many soldier were killed by friendly fire and this did a good job showing how it could happen in stressful situations. -- Kellye Sorber

I thought the movie did a good job showing the split reaction of the American people. Those who supported the war and those who protested. I also liked how it showed the change in Ron's character as he realized what was really going on. - Christine W.

In the hospital when Ron freaks out at the nurses and they don't have the right pump for his leg, the doctor explains to him, "Cutbacks. The government's just not giving us the money we need to take care of you guys." According to what we learned in the lecture, this would have been accurate, and the possibility that someone like Ron could lose his leg because of those cutbacks was real. -Whitney Holcomb

I was surprised with how much this movie was able to accurately portray. You really see how hard it was for the Vets to return to the states with little to no support from their country and all of the stresses from war. Most of them were druggies or, like Ron, alcoholics. You also see how crappy the hospitals were and how little funding they received from the federal government. I know we learned in class that it was much less than post-WWII America but the movie really made it real how few doctors there were and how just, disgusting the hospitals actually were. I was NOT prepared for the bedpans and the vomit. That was unnecessary. -Kelly Wuyscik

I also really liked how well the film showed the difficulty discerning guys in your own troops and the members of the Vietcong. It really amplified how stressful and chaotic the setting was over in Vietnam and how frequently new guys were being added or sent home from American troops. -Kelly Wuyscik

Unfortunately, much of the hospital horror that occurred in the film has happened as recently as last year. Those of us from the DC area will likely remember the extensive coverage of the neglect scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that the Washington Post covered extensively. Red tape, rat and cockroach infestations, mold, all occurring at the US Army's flagship east coast medical center. It was accurate then, it is accurate now. -Cash Nelson

Whether veterans were disabled or suffering from PTSD, the readjustment to a country at war with itself had to leave any veteran feeling lost in the shuffle (at best). I think this movie conveys the disillusionment of the Vietnam era well. Kovic is a guy who went from “love it or leave” it to “politicians are rapists and thieves”. His story resonates because it was not uncommon, and sadly not unjustified. -Jason Ward

The difference in the two 4th of July parades accurately displays the differing views of the American people. When the WWII veterans returned home, hundreds of people were lining the streets, cheering, clapping, and holding American flags. When Ron is being driven through the parade the people lining the streets are jeering and giving him the figure. It shows the very different reactions of the American people to these two wars. One war they supported (WWII), the other they did not (Vietnam). Also, during the first parade when the fireworks/gun shots(?) are fired the veteran is startled and flinches and young Ron takes notice of that; this is exactly what happens to Ron during the parade, he flinches when he hears that gun shot sound. These are two examples of the PTSD the soldiers experienced that affected them in their everyday life. --Mallory C.

This film was the first that hammered home for me how bad it is when the government isn't prepared to take care of wounded veterans. The scenes in the VA hospital make it easy to understand the difficulties associated with a lack of funding, and what it was like for veterans in those hospitals. I guess watching Forest Gump too many times left me thinking VA hospitals were all ping pong and ice cream. - JT Newcomb

I thought the scene in the bar where Kovic and the WWII Marine get into a scuffle was powerful in that it showed the disconnect between generations and between the views on the different wars. I know that guys like my grandfather who served in the Marines in the Pacific during WWII and in Korea often had little sympathy for perceived "whiners" from Vietnam. Because of the different circumstances surrounding the two wars and the vast differences between the generations, it is no wonder there were such tensions among the veterans.-Bryan Mull

I also agree on the movie doing a great job with showing how Ron’s view changes towards the war. It shows how society around him affected his thoughts on how the war had a negative impact on America. The film also gave examples of what was happening in America, the Kent State shootings (Donna briefly stated about) and the brutal beatings by police officers at the war rallies. –Ashley Scutari

As with the people above me, I felt the film did a good job portraying PTSD, and how no one really knew much about it or what was going on. No one was like 'oh he has blah blah blah' they were like 'your home you should just forget it and get on with life.' --Ashley Wilkins

The film also got the age of the soldiers correct. In the beginning, there was a scene when some recruiting officers showed up at Ronnie's high school, trying to recruit some of the young men from there. Also, according to Wilson's grave stone, the guy Ronnie killed was only 19 years old when he died, so again a very young person. ~Katherine Stinson~

The movie also correctly mentions the events going on at this time, such as the Kent State Massacre, My Lai etc. ~Katherine Stinson~

I think the movie also got correct the reactions Ronnie got from his family when he finally came home from the hospital. His family was unsure of how to act around him, and they were always asking if he needed extra help. Ronnie's mother's reaction reminded me a lot of Homer's mother's reaction when she first saw her son, in "Best Years of Our Lives". Both mothers could barely look at their sons with out crying, and had to excuse themselves so they wouldn't break down in front of their sons. ~Katherine Stinson~

I definitely agree with Bryan that the film accurately depicted the disconnect between vets of the Vietnam War and vets of other wars. Although we now view Korean War vets as the most neglected (and rightly so, I must say), at the time Vietnam vets were looked down on in a way the other vets weren't. This was the first war in the U.S. popularly questioned by the public. - Sarah Richardson

I thought it was ironic that Nixon said in his nomination speech that people who served in Vietnam deserve the honor and respect they earned, when after all he cut funding to veterans and held back veteran healthcare and education benefits.-James Drury

I can't remember his name, but Kovic's friend who owns the burger joint once warned him that the communist threat was not as prominent as many thought. This is accurate because communism, although real, was never much of a threat as much as a percieved threat to the American public. "Better dead than red" was Kovic's saying, as Kovic thought he was fighting against communism, only to find himself in aiding and abbeting a population in the middle of a civil war.-James Drury

b Inaccurate/issues:

In Ron's Vietnam scene, his unit shoots at huts in this village and then go investigate. But when they find the bodies, they freak out because they realize they're just civilians, and actually call medics to help these innocent people. The Lieutenant is hardly able to keep them under control. It seems implausible they would have reacted like that, because at this point in the war, they would have known the villagers they shot at may or may not be VC. Perhaps some of the green soldiers like Wilson might be surprised, but Ron shouldn't have been. -Whitney Holcomb

Really? I thought the reason they were shocked is that the Americans honestly didn't think there were civilians in the area. The justification for shooting was that the lieutenant saw rifles in the huts, only later did the Americans find out that the VC had used civilians as "Cover". Also I thought the confusion and uncertainty between unarmed civilians and VC was one of the main frustrations American soldiers had fighting in Vietnam. I thought this scene was accurate. - Jason Ward

I don't know Jason, I would have to agree with Whitney on this one. When we see Ron in Vietnam, right before the shootings, he is starting his second tour of duty. It is hard to believe that after already spending a year in the conflict, Ron would not have experienced chaotic confusion, the murder of innocent civilians and the savagery that characterized the war. According to Phillip Caputo, who was also a marine during the early period of conflict , in "Rumor of War," soldiers were fast introduced to the ruthlessness of the war. Soldiers realized pretty quickly that they would receive no mercy, so chose to present very little themselves. I am not saying the Kovic had become a ruthless killer, but that he would not have been so naive to that kind of warfare. ~Juliann Boyles

I thought they were more shocked to find that they were being fired at rather than the fact that they killed innocent peolple. It was also accurate for soldiers to disobey orders, act on their own, and do as they please. -James Drury

Gotta agree with Jason here, this was not some situation where they were going in to suppress some village, nor was this some "revenge" mission, they thought the VC were there in force, and upon seeing nobody in the hut was armed of course they would be upset. I doubt one tour of duty would suddenly turn Kovic into some heartless baby killing machine.-Bryan Mull

When Ron is home after the war, in his room with his parents, the American flag on the bedroom wall behind him is hung backwards! The field of stars should be on the left, not the right. -Whitney Holcomb

I interpreted the backwards hanging of the flag as a sign of symbolic protest. -Jason Ward

You have a good point about the shooting, Jason. I guess I missed seeing the rifles part of that. But about the flag, wasn't Ron at that point still very patriotic? -Whitney Holcomb

I felt that overall this movie hit some key points that are accurate, BUT I felt that it was another stereotypical portrayal of a torn up vietnam vet. Maybe I am still living in a fantasy that most of the vets were not drastically screwed up when they returned from the war. I know it was based on a book so this might not have been necessarily a film makers decision. - Elle

Awe come on, Elle. You didn't like the American Hero story? It's not shown on the silver screen nearly enough. That's not to say it wasn't an impressive life story, but like Elle said, it just seemed to be too much. -Kelly Wuyscik

Just to offer up some perspective, the screenplay was written by Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic himself, both of which were veterans of this war. Kovic approved the casting of Tom Cruise, and while there were obviously scenes added for dramatic license (most notably, Ron Kovic telling Will's family that he was responsible for their son's murder), most of it was on the up and up. -Cash Nelson

That being said, Parris Island would have only been eight weeks of hell back then. Not thirteen. -Cash Nelson

Maybe this is a function of there just not being a whole lot of combat scenes but I was wondering where all the black soldiers were? There was the guy that saved Kovic and carried him to safety, but I don't recall seeing any other black soldiers, which is strange seeing as how something like 60 percent of black males were drafted. Though I guess the protest scenes showed a bit more diversity. -Bryan Mull

I don’t know much about the book the movie is based off of, but I felt the whole scene in Mexico was inaccurate. If I’m wrong please correct me, but this was something America did not talk about if it were true. Was Mexico a popular retreat place for the Vets, and was it exactly like how it was portrayed in the film? –Ashley Scutari

I thought the depiction of Mexico was a little ludicrous. Although I know Mexico was a place of destination for some wishing to escape the states, in the movie, Mexico seemed almost to be a resort, a haven for the disabled, paraplegic veteran, with poker, alcohol and prostitutes at your beck and call. I didn't really buy it.

I’m not sure, but in the scene Ron and a friend of his were talking about the war and the friend stated “This is a wealthy man’s war.” What does he mean by that? It was not a war for the common soldier because most soldiers who fought were from the lower class. –Ashley Scutari

I interpreted this quote about "the wealthy man's war" as an acknowledgment of the notion that politicians in Washington "play war", using lower class boys as their playing pieces. In other words, the "fatcats" in Washington make war, but let others do their fightin'. Take a listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival's Fortunate Son. Here is a lyric that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time, "Some folks are born made to wave the flag, Ooh, they're red, white and blue. And when the band plays hail to the chief, Ooh, they point the cannon at you, lord,It aint me, it aint me, I aint no senators son, son. It aint me, it aint me; I aint no fortunate one, no,"- Jason Ward

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." New York Times, Oct. 28, 1973. -Wealthy White Politican Henry Kissinger

"The US must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power." Post-Vietnam blues, as quoted in The Washington Post, April 1975 -Henry Kissinger

"So many minority youths had volunteered that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself." --Tom DeLay, explaining at the 1988 GOP convention why he and vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle did not fight in the Vietnam War

This movie has a very strange passage of time. It quickly zooms to the Vietnam war without any transition period covering training or the green zone. The movie does not really go into any real depth of experience in the Vietnam war and only focuses on a couple instances of traumatic war experience followed by a stay at a hospital. The way they condemn the hospitals particularly bothers me in relation to the discussion of our lecture in which it was discussed that Vietnam had a large support staff and better health treatment for soldiers. - Jonathan Bell

Kind of going off of Ashley and Jason's comments, what did you all think about the remark that Vietnam was a "white man's war"? -Kelly Wuyscik

Kelly, I think that the belief that Vietnam was "a white man's war" was common during the conflit. Although many of the soldiers fighting in Vietnam were black, most were drafted, meaning they were forced to fight. Racial tensions within the USA during the 1960s and 1970s were still very heightened. Many felt that America should not be fighting a war overseas for freedom while there was still a battle for civil liberties going on within the country. Some believed that "the white man" was more concerned with communism abroad than improving the lives of Americans, especially poor, underprivileged African Americans. The hospital scenes depict this attitude, when the attendants and nurses tell Ron they do not care about Vietnam, that it is not their fight, and they therefore have little respect for Ron's sacrifice. ~Juliann Boyles

Kelly, I have to say that I found that remark incredibly inaccurate. This was the first war fought by a desegregated military. As Dr. McClurken mentioned in class, this was a war fought overwhelmingly by working class whites and black soldiers. In Vietnam, for the first time in American history, we saw a class and racial disconnect in the makeup of our military forces. Vietnam was fought by those disadvantaged by society: young, poor white and black men. Not exactly those you think of when describing the makeup of congress or the presidency. - Sarah Richardson

One thing that really bothered me about the movie was the censorship on drug use. Stone showed everything else - sex with prostitutes, alcoholism, vomit and bed pans, but the movie definitely shied away from a common characteristic of a returning Vietnam Vet undergoing psychological trauma - the use of drugs, specifically heroin as Dr. M mentioned in class. There was a split second where you saw it in the hospital, but nowhere else. Was this perhaps because of the time period in which the movie was made, during Reagan's war on drugs? ~Juliann Boyles

2 Film's relationship to current scholarship or to primary sources from the time

In Tim O'Brian's book he talks about the baggage the soldiers. It mentions the intangible as well as the tangible. I thought the movie did a good job showing this baggage especially after Ron killed one of his soldiers. - Christine W.

In "A Rumor of War," the author discusses how the war appealed to the young generation originally. How most of those who signed up early were teenagers and young adults because they were taught to be proud of their country and wanted to defend it. They answered Kennedy's call of "ask what you can do for your country" and wanted to be like their parents who had fought in previous wars, most notably WWII. You could see this in the movie pretty well, especially when the young Ron is sitting there watching Kennedy's address with his family and gets riled up about how to help and defend his country. -Kelly Wuyscik

So this wasn't a major part of anything but I wondered about the letters that were sent to and from soldiers. In the film Ron sends love letters to his lady, and it is also mentioned in the readings. Did this communication with home help also to keep the moral high, or no more so than any other war? - Elle

I was very pleased to see O'Brien's The Things They Carried selected as a reading for this film. I would highly suggest that anyone who hasn't read O'Brien to pick up TTTC or Going After Cacciato as both are extremely powerful books in understanding the psyche of the Vietnam soldier. I found that of any text (be it film, novel, textbook), The Things They Carried was one of the most formative texts for me in understanding the impact of Vietnam on a generation (which is notable seeing as how it is a work of fiction). In regards to this film and TTTC, I found that Kovic's despair upon returning and most people not really caring about the war was reflected well in O'Brien's book. Though not in our excerpt, there is a story of a Vietnam vet who returns home and basically drives around his town every night with nothing to do, trying to figure out where he fits in with the world he has returned home to find. In my opinion it is the most heartbreaking part of the book in that all this person wants is basically the occasional pat on the back for a job well done, not a fancy parade, but he never really gets it. Also the issue of returning home to girls that have since moved on in their lives is reflected in the book, as with Kovic and his childhood sweetheart with whom he can no longer really communicate.- Bryan Mull

I really liked A Rumor of War. I thought Caputo’s discussion of nostalgia offered a new perspective on why the Vietnam conflict was so complicated for Vietnam veterans. Whether veterans supported or protested the war, their time in Vietnam was the most formative experience of their lives. Caputo said his objections to Vietnam were informed by a completely different set of circumstances than that of the homefront protesters- war. “Because I had fought in it, it was not an abstract issue, but a deeply emotional experience, the most significant thing that had happened to me.” I think this is the very sentiment that everyone ought to keep in mind when discussing the Vietnam conflict (and really any hot-button issue). Regardless of where people fall on the issue of Vietnam, everyone’s opinion is valid. Too often one side accuses the other side of “not getting it” or that “they’re wrong”, but this accusation misses the point. With an issue as personal and emotional as war, there is no right or wrong, just a poignant internalization of a provocative reality.- Jason Ward

"In spite of everything, we felt a strange attachment to Vietnam and, even stranger, a longing to return." These words from A Rumor of War is closely related to Tom Cruise's character. He joins the war initially b/c he finds the thought of combat "attractive" (a term used by this reading). Upon his return, he encounters a brother who has gained liberal thoughts on the war, but Tom Cruise struggles to understand this opposition because of his nostalgia. Furthermore, the reading explains that the overall mission in Vietnam was not to gain position or territory, but to simply "kill communists." These are very powerful words and something Oliver Stone was able to depict well in the movie. - David F.

This movie does not really fit in well with what they carried in my opinion because it does not show a real variety in the soldiers in Vietnam. The point of that reading was that they didn't all carry the same things and quite a few things they took were personalized, but this was not shown in the movie. The movie never go anywhere near the depth of the readings in conveying the Vietnam war experience for soldiers. - Jonathan Bell

Although I agree with Jonathan that the movie does not depict the soldiers in Vietnam as complex or diverse as the readings convey, one part of the reading really struck a chord with me after watching the movie. In "Things they carried," the author mentions Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, his love for Martha back home and his dramatic reaction to the killing of his man Lavender. Although in the reading Cross didn't technically kill Lavender, he felt responsible and he carried that guilt with him, leading him to tear up the pictures and letters from his love. In the movie, Kovic carried the guilt of having killed Wilson with him for a long time, leading him down a road of self-destruction, and ultimately a meeting with Wilson's family in a quest for forgiveness. Not all burdens are tangible in the cases of Cross and Kovic, but they can prove awfully heavy to bear. ~Juliann Boyles

The movie fits in well with "A Rumor of War" because the author talks about how when he hears thunder all he can think about is "the roar of artillery", and in the movie when Ronnie heard a helicopter flying overhead, he had a flashback to fighting in Vietnam. ~Katherine Stinson~

"Most American soldiers in Vietnam--at least the ones I knew--could not be divided into good men and bad. Each possessed roughly equal measures of both qualities." These words from Rumor of War were perhaps the most telling of all, in regards to the movie. Despite a complete emotional transformation, Ron Kovic was never a good guy and he was never a bad guy. No one knew quite how to react to him, or any of the other veterans because as Caputo says, "the American soldier was a reflection of themselves." -Cash Nelson

I have never read Kovic's autobiographical account, but Born on the Fourth of July (great title btw) is very closely related to "A Rumor of War" as the above post mention. Not only is this a personal account from a soldier who served for a long time in Vietnam, but I have heard many other accounts, analyses, etc. that say generally the same thing about soldier mentality and conditions. The short scene of war in the film must have been quite the sparknotes of Kovic's actual experiences, but it was able to show a great deal, in a short bit of time, of what a soldier might have experienced. What we didn't get out of the actual flashbacks and such, we could interpret from the scenes when Cruise interacts with other vets, like off-his-rocker Wilem Dafoe. "A Rumor of War" provides ample defense for the crimes of P.C.s fellow soldiers because of the bond felt between him and the only other people who could understand what he had went through, but simultaneously the describes the growing feeling (especially through the influence of the emerging society) to protest those pulling the strings and being the cause of all the suffering, as the author himself turned toward the protest movement. --Jackie Reed

3 Movie as primary source about makers/time/setting/genre

The soldiers, including Ron Kovic really thought they were going to beat Communists in Vietnam in the beginning. They were disillusioned. The Cold War was coming to an end around the time this movie was made. The Tienanmen Square Massacre happened on July 4, 1989 and Berlin Wall fell in late 1989. It seems like with the release of this film, the filmmakers were making a comment on Communism or the war on it.- Lauren

With a father who served in Vietnam from 1969-1970, I can say that this movie was pretty accurate with the stories he told about coming back home. While his story is nowhere near the personal hell that Kovic endured in his time back from the fighting, this movie showed, accurately, that our Vietnam Veterans did not get their ticker-tape parades. They were not congratulated. They were not thanked. By the time 1970 rolled around, free love was over. The Rolling Stones had held a concert at Altamont that led to 3 accidental deaths and one murder. Bobby and Jack Kennedy were dead, as were Dr. King and Malcolm X. Popular music was anti-war, involving everyone from the Doors, to Jefferson Airplane to Country Joe and the Fish. For once, America was losing a war, and with it, America lost its innocence. The homefront was a maelstrom of emotion, and while many were thankful for the service of our men and women, the anger, hatred and disenchantment was there as well. -Cash Nelson

Cash already mentioned this, but Oliver Stone himself was a Vietnam Vet, which I did not find out until after watching the movie. This makes me wonder about the motives behind making this film. The Gulf War began a year later in August of 1990, so how much of an influence did the build-up of that war have on Stone and Kovic? Was this more than just a re-telling of one veteran's story? Was this film a tool to try and get Americans to oppose the Gulf War? Kovic was arrested 12 times for political protests, and he was an active protestor against the Gulf War. - David F.

Throughout the movie, there was an ever-present tone painting the fight against communism as a ludicrous, illogical one. The scene where Kovic's mother tells him he is doing the right thing for going off to war to fight, because God is against communism really captures that tone. I think because this movie was made at the very end of the Cold War, when Americans had grown tired of the Communist fight, some contemporary criticism on foreign policy had definitely made its way into the movie.~Juliann Boyles

Its really interesting how the film shows the treatment of soldiers. Comparing the 2 parades and the treatment of the soldiers... flicking him off as he drove by, the spitting in the faces of protesting vets, the basic degradation of vets, people calling him pathetic and having lost his ability to walk for "nothing". I think this film adds to the sentiment that grew out of that anti-war movement and the negative qualities of it. Today we separate the soldiers from the war better when we start condemning. Although, we can still see many instances of American soldiers doing horrible, horrendous, in human things to detainees--like in the instance of Abu Ghraib--because of what the soldiers are told to do by the superiors and the mental climate in which they become accustom to--something unfamiliar, unrecognizable, and very primeval like how the soldiers felt in Vietnam when they committed atrocities. Granted this happened years after Stone's film was made... but it is still relevent--Jackie Reed

4 Public reaction/impact

In watching the documentary in the special features, it was stated that after winning Best Picture for Platoon, "Oliver Stone could have made any movie he wanted." Born On... was a promise kept to Ron Kovic himself that he would get this movie made. Oliver Stone was not looking for an Oscar with this one, but he got one anyway for Best Director. He wasn't looking to gross $70 million, but it did anyway. This wasn't even meant to be Oliver Stone's baby. He had already done that with Platoon. Born On The 4th was a promise kept to a fellow Vietnam Veteran. Kovic felt very much that his story had been left behind and ignored. Oliver Stone promised to bring it back. Wasn't that enough? -Cash Nelson

5 Other movies/questions of style/framing/storyline

Was the use of the blinking club lights meant to convey a sense of unreality in Ronnie's life after his return home? -Lauren

How often did soldiers go off to Mexico to avoid what was going on in the US? It seemed that there were a lot of the men, especially those in wheelchairs that were in Mexico trying to recover and avoid the criticism in the states. -- Kellye Sorber

The only other Oliver Stone movie I have seen was Any Given Sunday, a football movie where he used a lot of cuts and dramatized a lot of scenes where intense dialogue was taken place. So for this movie, I was expecting a lot of distortion and even complexity in the progression of the film. I actually don't mind how the film was made b/c it is very unique to Stone's style, and it seemed to fit in this story re-tell of someone's Vietnam war experience. By watching these two Stone movies, it seems he likes to integrate the past with the present. The way he seems to do this is, for example, in the scene where Kovic is speaking at a parade but he cannot continue b/c of the baby crying. Stone reminds Kovic (and the audience) about the baby crying in Vietnam and instills sounds of helicoptors and gun fire. Very powerful techniques. - David F.

I felt that the jarring nature of the film was really unsettling - but I felt that this was a conscious decision by the film makers to portray how unsettling and choppy the experience of the vietnam was was for soldiers. -Elle

That makes sense for the "Vietnam Section" I guess we can call it, but for the entire movie? It didn't really seem to make sense and I don't know if it was a wise choice on their part (if it was a conscious decision) to try to do that. Something just doesn't seem to add up. But the choppiness really did work with the war scenes because you did get a sense of confusion and chaos of the situations these guys were in. -Kelly Wuyscik

In response to Kelly's response - I was thinking psychologically it works for the whole movie. I am NOT saying that I enjoyed it as a film viewer, but I can see why it might have been done that way. - Elle

Kelly and Elle, this is a common technique of Stone's, used in even heavier amounts in Natural Born Killers, U-Turn and Any Given Sunday. Even JFK ran with it. Stone has often said that the stories he tells are filled with an anarchic level of chaos and panic, and the jarring, frantic cuts are his way of showing that panic. -Cash Nelson

It worked for me. - Wesley Weeks

Tangentally, I loved the placement of Johnny Got His Gun in the scene where Kovic learns he will never walk again. For those of you who have never read this (I have two copies, I am willing to let people borrow), there is perhaps no better work of literature that better portrays the agonizing fear that comes with realizing you, as a soldier, will never be understood as a human again. -Cash Nelson

In terms of Born on the Fourth of July 's relationship to other Vietnam films, (I guess this is "filmography" as opposed to historiography) I think this movie does a good job of portraying the Vietnam vet. I would categorize this film as a biographical autobiography, that is Stone told Kovic's story with help from Kovic himself. On one hand Born on the Fourth of July validates the stock characters we see in other films while ultimately moving beyond those characterizations. Dr. McClurken mentioned that other movies about Vietnam depicted the vets as unstable and alienated, and the real Ron Kovic certainly had to deal with his share of instability and alienation in the years following his return home. What made Kovic different from the characters in other movies is that he was able to channel his feelings into activism. Plenty of veterans came home and never quite recovered, but Kovic’s story is important because he did not let Vietnam defeat him personally. - Jason Ward

Why did Tom Cruise's hair change so drastically? I'm assuming it's suppose to show how much he aged while at war, but I have to say it made me somewhat uncomfortable. --Mallory C.

I thought most of Ron's childhood scenes were hyper-dramatized and nearly silly. "I had a dream last night Ron. You were talking in front of a whole bunch of people..."? There are the dangers of basing a film on an autobiography. We are all the heroes of our own lives. - JT Newcomb

Oliver Stone sure has a talent for ruining moments that should be dramatic. For instance, Ron’s breakdown at his parents’ house when he’s shouting and crying about killing children and being paralyzed and castrated? It was intense and very heart wrenching. And then he starts screaming “Penis! Penis!” at the top of his lungs, and the moment is gone. Then when Ron and the other fellow are left in the desert, and they fight over who killed more babies and start spitting on each other and fall out of their wheelchairs. Yeah, that was really dramatic. Not. A scene like that should not have been made comedic. And while I’m complaining about Stone’s style, he also has a talent for trying to make moments dramatic that really shouldn't be dramatic. As JT notes above, the childhood scenes boarded on silly. And why did Stone feel the need to use slow motion so gratuitously? I was over the slow-mo in the first five minutes on the movie. --Taylor Brann

I find the focus on the experiences of one veteran an inferior approach compared to the approach made in "Best Years of Our Lives". I find it problematic how the movie tries to relate all the various problems veterans faced to one person. There are other veterans in the movie, but none are given any real depth compared to the main character. I also found it questionable how little time the movie actually spent in the Vietnam war itself. - Jonathan Bell

To contribute to Jonathan's point, I think that the only character that was truly developed in the film was Kovic. I had trouble even identifying people in the movie. When Kovic goes to hug his old childhood friend, also a Vietnam Vet, I didn't even know who he was. I also had trouble piecing together who exactly Wilson was, the man Kovic killed. And for other characters, like Donna, we do not know very much about her at all, other than the fact that Kovic likes her and she goes to Syracuse. Everyone seemed very flat in comparison to Kovic. ~Juliann Boyles

I don't really think the point of the movie was to focus on the war, it was to focus on the equally trying time that some vets like Kovic faced upon returning home. Movies like Platoon and We Were Soldiers (had to get that Mel Gibson reference in there) and to an extent Rescue Dawn chronicle the conditions over in Vietnam. But this movie, Taxi Driver and Deer Hunter focus on the effect of coming home and dealing with an experience that fundamentally changed those who served. For instance, using WWII movies, if you wanted to view the war itself you might watch Saving Private Ryan, whereas if you wanted to see the effect of the war upon returning home you would want to watch The Best Years of Our Lives, or Flags of Our Fathers. There can be "war movies" that do not focus on actual combat, and in some instances these are more compelling.- Bryan Mull

One thing that really bothered me was the music for the film. John Williams has done an awful lot of first rate scores, but I don’t think his style of music was appropriate for this movie. Sure, it was pretty, but it kept pulling me out of the scenes. I’m pretty sure “they” say that the best scores are the ones viewers don’t really notice. --Taylor Brann

Taylor, I think the meaning behind the desert scene was to show how ridiculous blind vindictiveness can be. Willem Dafoe's character was angry for the sake of being angry, while Kovic was angry for being abandoned. Both of them ran away instead of confronting the issue, and I think this was Stone (or Kovic's) way of saying "running away is still running away. You still have the same problems, they just have a different mailing address." The verbal fight over "how many babies did [they] kill," was also important, in that it showed how the war created a value system so twisted that the only way these menw ere able to validate themselves was by a kill count. -Cash Nelson

Also, the catheter scene was, in my opinion, Ron Kovic forcing his family to accept what he is. His mother refuses to accept what the war did to him, and Ron refused to be ignored. This was one of the most soul-crushing scenes in the movie, I thought, because it showed just how alone he was in his torment. -Cash Nelson

Cash, I certainly agree that the dialogue in the desert scene is important. It tells a lot about what the war did to these men. My problem is that it’s turned into a humorous moment, which really detracts from the meaningfulness of it for me. The same goes for the scene in the Kovic household where Ron confronts his parents. I think pulling out the catheter was important for his family and the audience, but it’s turned into something of a joke. Maybe there’s some deep philosophical point to be made about making those moments humorous, but I’m not really in the mood to be grasping at straws. --Taylor Brann

But at the same time do you all think you'd react in the same way had we watched this when the movie came out, before Tom Cruise was jumping on couches and making Oprah look like the model of constraint? Maybe even on a subconscious level the fact that most people don't take Cruise seriously anymore impacted the way that some of you viewed these particular scenes.-Bryan Mull

There were two guys in this film that also did Platoon-- Willem Dafoe and the dude with the scar on his face in Platoon. I also kept thinking about other Vietnam films. This was different in that it is really a story about a single man and the post-war adjustment (with only 2 quick war scenes) kind of like Best Years of Our Lives. I don't think they ever made a non-why does life suck so much this film is so depressing-Vietnam film. That's why everyone should go see Tropic Thunder this weekend at cheapseats... its gonna be LEGENDARY!!!--Jackie Reed

6 Overall

I really did not like this movie. Most of the time I felt very confused, it seemed to jump around a lot and it made it hard to follow at times. I also had a hard time believing in Tom Cruise as the main character Ron Kovic. Maybe this is because I am so used to seeing him in different roles that this role was just different enough to make it seem strange. -- Kellye Sorber

As is often difficult for anyone, upon developing bias, it was tough for me to detach from my love for Oliver Stone in watching this. Instead, I watched it from the perspective of a 20 year old kid whose brother is an Iraq vet and whose father is a Vietnam vet. I watched from the perspective of a kid still trying to figure out his own personal politics, while still giving everyone else's, regardless of my agreement/disagreement, a fair day in court. I watch it from the perspective of trying to put myself, a relatively conservative 21-year-old, college-going kid into the perspective of the time, when my politics probably would not have been popular. Finally, I watch it with the knowledge that there is not a single human being alive that WANTS war. With all of these emotions around one simple, three-letter-word, "war," Stone crafted a masterful examination of the human psyche. It was chaotic. To be perfectly honest, the Vietnam era was a pretty terrible time to be American. -Cash Nelson

I also had a hard time following the movie. I agree with Kellye that it seemed to jump around a lot. I also found it hard to believe Tom Cruise as the main character. - Christine W.

I have to disagree with both of you, I thought Cruise was fantastic. His performance captured the essence of Vietnam Vet struggling to find closure in a world of chaos and alienation. I was very impressed - see he can be more than just Top Gun. And if we are going to analyze movies fairly as historians, we should not let our personal opinions of the actors' personal lives so greatly affect our analysis of the film.~Juliann Boyles

I don't really care for this. It wasn't very entertaining for me and it's not something I would ever watch again. I didn't have any problems with the film jumping around, but I kept trying to figure out when he'd actually gone away, and therefore how old he was and how long he'd been gone. We see kid Ron watching JFK's speech in 1961, then Ron is a senior in high school, then we are in Vietnam in October 1967. Only after a parade when a speaker says Ron was born in '46 do things come together. I was preoccupied with this on multiple occasions. -Whitney Holcomb

Tom Cruise pre-Vietnam/during the war > Tom Cruise in the hospital to the end. And, I know that's how the style was in the 1970s, but I couldn't handle it. Everything just seemed to be too over-the-top almost and very very dramatic. And I think abbreviating Kovic's life so much to fit it all in in 2 1/2 hours hurt the movie a great deal. As the others said, it was so fragmented and scattered that I had a hard time keeping up with how old Ron was supposed to be, etc. -Kelly Wuyscik One more thing; were those supposed to be New York accents? I know Kovic was from Long Island but come on now. They sounded a bit off to me, but I suppose anything is better than Kevin Costner and a Boston accent. -Kelly Wuyscik

Try Kevin Costner and a New Orleans accent. -Cash Nelson

Oh, eiw. -Kelly Wuyscik

I like that Stone showed the differing views between Ron and Donna. He a Vet and she a war-protester. It reminded me of Forrest Gump although Forrest Gump came 8 years after Born on the 4th of July. I'm glad Stone mentioned the protest at Kent State because not only did this horrible event have a big impact on the American public but also college campuses were hubs for protests that held very powerful stances during the Vietnam era. --Mallory C.

I was expecting something really bad, and really inaccurate from Oliver Stone. He surprised me, I liked the film... a lot. - Jason Ward

In response to Cash's comment, I cannot resist quoting Robert E. Lee: observing the slaughter of the Battle of Fredericksburg from his vantage point on Telegraph Hill, he said to Gen. Longstreet, "It is well that war is so terrible - we should grow too fond of it." It still rings true. -Whitney Holcomb

I didn't like the movie all that much, and by the time it ended I was actually fairly... depressed is too strong sounding but I can not think of another word. I didn't like how the movie would just cut to another scene, no transition, no nothing, just one minute your watching something then BAM something completely different. It drove me nuts!! --Ashley Wilkins

Way to ruin “Moon River,” Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise. You two need to apologize to Audrey Hepburn, Henry Mancini, and Johnny Mercer. I’ll never be able to listen to that song the same way again. --Taylor Brann

That was the point. -Cash Nelson

If the point was to ruin the song in a "meaningful" way, then they failed for me. Anyway, I did like the movie. Of course, I can’t think of any movie that I’ve ever truly disliked. It’s nice to be reminded that Tom Cruise can be more than just a crazy person. I think the film did a fair job depicting the period, and it followed Kovic’s autobiography pretty accurately. However, I do think that it’s important to note that the book made me cry, while the movie didn’t. Usually, I react more emotionally to movies than books, simply because words can’t always get across feelings like an expression can. While I think the movie did a fantastic and heartbreaking job of showing Ron’s pain, I think I’ll stick to the autobiography. --Taylor Brann

I noticed that the friend said he di drugs to deal with the return from war and and the war in general but They never showed him doing anything. I fact he didn't seem even be effected by anything. Maybe it was to show the degrees of problems. I just feel Stone could have shown that character more.---Matt DeMarr

This seemed like one of the better of Stone's movies. Perhaps this is because he served in Vietnam. -Wesley Weeks