Historical Narratives

From the mid- to the late twentieth century, the movement of postmodernism, including philosophy, art, architecture, and liberal studies, became the focus of academic research. Postmodern thought is deliberate liberation from the previous modernist approaches. The term “postmodern” comes from the critique of scientific thought about objectivity and progress associated with the enlightenment of modernism.[1] Unlike modernism, postmodernism does not emphasize or promote Western rationalism and civilization.[2]

By definition, postmodern historians and scholars believe that historical facts are inaccessible, leaving them the opportunity reconstruct the narrative of history. This approach shifted the paradigm of the traditional approach where history holds within the evidence. Postmodernist, like Michel Foucault, offers a compelling theory of thinking about history, that truth and knowledge were nothing other than claims to power.[3] People, or institution, with power, have the ability to control knowledge, and the narrative of history. History can be constructed and interpreted to influence how people remember the past.

Postmodern history expands to many other fields to examine the past including films. Hollywood, as the most powerful and influential entertainment industry, holds an advantage in directing the narrative that can impact the public memory of the past events. For instance, the U.S. lost the war against Vietnam; however, the Americans won the symbolic war, namely, the contest in the discursive field. Hollywood dominates the Vietnam War narrative not only in America but also in many countries. Vietnam had produced a fair amount of films about the war against the Americans, but their films did not gain much attention from the international stage. Nonetheless, in the study of the representation of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese films cannot be dismissed in the survey.

The American Myths

Vietnamese Refugees

Operation Linebacker II

Vietnamese Economic Reform

[1] Brian Duignan, “Postmodernism,” Britannica, accessed January 19, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy.

[2] Duignan, “Postmodernism.”

[3] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 19.