Vision A – Vietnam War – Presentation Outline

Hello all,

After discussion with Rosa on Friday 17 March, and our private group meeting on Sunday 19 March, our current presentation structure is as follow.

Title: How Imperialism is Visualised in Popular Media? In the case of Apocalypse Now (1979) and Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)

Part 1. Introduction (3 minutes, Penny)

  • 1.1 Introduction to imperialism, popular media of film;
  • 1.2. Justification of our case studies (from novel Heart of Darkness to the films), and methodologies;
  • 1.3 Presentation outline.

Part 2. Introduction to the films and the absence of  Vietnamese People – Orientalism (Li)

  • 2.1 Introduces the differences of the two films, similar plot structure (episodic), but the core is the same – about American people self-realisation of their participant in the war (2 minutes);
  • 2.2 Under such a background, Vietnamese people are silenced, marginalised, and remain as a backdrop (3 minutes).

Part 3. The differences in the two films – in relation to their respective political contexts (5 minutes, Gabi)

  • 3.1 Apocalypse Now (1979) as rethinking about the Vietnam War; Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) perhaps renegotiating the past in relation to the new political contexts – Iraq.
  • 3.2 Not just the two films are self-centred, but the wider film industry (perhaps data analysis)

Part 4. Imperial Hollywood and reshaping of memories (5 minutes, Cilin)

  • 4.1 Hollywood film-making are self-centred: normalises the (Euro-)American view of the rest of the world. Foreign parts are simply backdrop. When the character do learn, the learning process is the point of interest, not other cultures. Examples from this film, and other film examples.
  • 4.2 The films reshape our memories: in this case, Vietnam War becomes a predominately an American War – this is anther reflection of Imperialism.

Part 5. Conclusion (2 minutes, Penny)

  • Reiterate our points, limitation, and areas for further studies.


Our current task is to write our own part of speech, 600-700 words, uploading it to the same google sheet by 4 pm Tuesday  21 March (I will send a group email). Then we would have one day to read parts of other team member, picking out missing points, reshuffle things around before discussing with Rosa on 5 pm Wednesday 22.

If there is any error, any suggestions, and if you have useful material for others, welcome to provide in replies.

Visions of Orientalism from Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is the movie to portray Vietnam War, but it is not really about Vietnam. And Vietnamese characters seems to be missing in the plot of the movie, which adopted from Conrad’s novel, the heart of the darkness. This interesting point reminds us of the vision of orientalism by Edward Said and I will clarify how this concept is closely related to this Hollywood film on Vietnam War.

To understand why this movie can represent the vision of orientalism and how it focus on western-centric perspective to generate its story, we shall first look at the concept of orientalism. Argued by Said (1978), ‘from the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist’s work.’ This means that westerners use their own perspective to understand the works from orients or even orients themselves instead of giving orients the chances to represent themselves.

In the film of Apocalypse now, this lack of representation is an important indicator to criticism the movie from the vision of orientalism.

  1. Where are the Vietnamese characters? In this film, the main characters are Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz. Besides, all other characters are mainly American soldiers. While the Vietnam War is about the confrontation between South and North sides of Vietnam, we cannot see any existence of Vietnamese soldiers on both sides to fight for their civil war. Instead, we can only see American people represent a way of post-imperialism and barbarism on invading the land of Vietnam and killing Vietnamese without any mercy. The Vietnamese in this movie has no voice and has to be totally surrendered to westerners because their opinions and way of thinking are not valued by the West.
  2. Misrepresentation of Viet Cong. Although the film has no role of portraying Vietnam soldiers, it is still important to notice the representation of Viet Cong from the dialogue of main character Colonel Kurtz. As he said, ”I remember when I was with Special Forces–it seems a thousand centuries ago–we went into a camp to inoculate it. The children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us, and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile–a pile of little arms. And I remember…I…I…I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it, I never want to forget. And then I realized–like I was shot…like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, “My God, the genius of that, the genius, the will to do that.”

So the overall representations of Viet Cong from this short video are ruthless,and more precisely North Vietnamese soldiers are being viewed as a symbol of the savage in the Apocalypse Now. However, this way of representation is prejudiced and oversimplified.North Vietnamese soldiers also want to have their voices to be heard and one explanation for the pile of little arms can be viewed as a rather cruel punishment in order to alarm Vietnamese to keep the distance from the American, who are seen as the biggest enemies escalating the tension between the South and North.

Looking at the film Apocalypse Now from the vision of orientalism, we can demonstrate that the filmmakers produce this movie from the perspective of western-centric and pay no attention to the Vietnamese even though the movie is under the category of Vietnam war.

Silence of the Lambs: How women are represented in ‘Apocalypse Now Redux’?

Apocalypse Now Playboy Bunny

It is worth saying that this interpretation has been constructed through my own cultural ‘baggage’ (so to speak) because as Derrida explains the text (or film interpretation in this case)  ‘is no longer a finished corpus of writing  (Derrida, 1995) because firstly, the film is an interpretation of Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’  and secondly, the audience that is watching the movie’s cultural background is in flux. In fact,  today I am analysing from my space in London where I see the representation of women as important in Apocalypse Now Redux however, to someone else in another time, place or with a different cultural background, they may not even have considered the role of the women in the film.

I have identified three categories in the film that show Coppola’s different representation of women. I have analysed the film myself, and also used sources to back-up my claims.

  • The Playboy women ( Their Entrance ‘ Helicopter Scene’ and Stranded in the Forest)
  • Vietnamese women at the beginning of the film
  • The French female colonist, Roxanne

(Need Minutes) The Playboy women (Entrance Scene)

  • The Playboy women are represented as an object, a symbol of the male gaze. ‘In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact’  (Mulvey, 1999, p. 837) In this way, the playboy bunnies are represented through the western, male gaze. It is suggested that this gaze is seen through the eyes of the protagonist Captain Benjamin Willard, because the camera darts to him in the crowd to the stage where the playboy bunnies are.
  • It is suggested that these women are given no authoritative voice because they have no real part to play in the Vietnam War. Using Willard’s perception of this scene, perhaps Coppolo is suggesting the savage nature of the male gaze which do not regard females as equals.
  • Barbara Enrenreich’s critiqued Playboy Magazine in 1954, to represent the consumer culture of the time. Using a post-colonial critique (in the context of the film, American interventionism) perhaps, the objectification of these women suggests all that is wrong with western intervention into ‘oriental states’ because the colonisers who symbolise the trope of American Freedom and Equality are seen as uncontrollable and savage.
  • I want to look more into Freud’s scopophilia which Laura Mulvey relates to Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema and use it in analysing this moment in the film. However, I need to rent out the movie again to do this.

(78:00+ Minutes): The Playboy women (Stranded and awaiting evacuation on the boat scene)

  • The objectification of the women is exaggerated, they are traded like objects, and two fuel barrels are traded with two hours with the playmates.
  • They are incomprehensible, and are represented as mentally out of it as the women seem mentally insane. This signal is that women have no place in the Vietnam War they are incoherent to what truly is going on.
  • What is an interesting added argument  is Celin’s addition (in our 10/03/17 meeting) of the repetitive tape of the mother to her son. He is killed in a matter of minutes whilst the tape eerily plays in the background. This distance put between the male soldier and his mother distances women in general. In fact, it symbolises how the wives, the mothers and the daughters were detached from the horrors of the war.
  • ‘In Heart of Darkness’ Marlow associated European civilisation with women “They-the women, I mean-are out of it-should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours get worse (Conrad, 1988, p. 49)’ In Demroy. They represent civilisation, a CORRUPT CIVILISATION nonetheless!

(23:58-26:54)Vietnamese Women

  • They are represented much more differently to the Playmates. I have chosen this section of the film as it introduces Vietnamese women as helpless, desperate and un-authoritative which is a common characterisation of the Vietnamese women in the film. Perhaps this representation emphasises their helplessness in such an oppressively male dominated war.
  • They are silenced by Coppolo as they are the representation of the ‘Subaltern’ who cannot speak (Spivak, p. 67). Though there is this idea of American interventionism for justice, using Spivak highlights that the ‘the female subaltern […] bears the burdens of racisms, sexism, classism and imperialism’.

110 minutes+ Roxanne/ Mme Sarrault ( Need to do more work on her representation)

  • Focuses on her beauty once again and once again she has sex, but in this case, it seems consensual.
  • She is the embodiment of the colonial past – halting in time.


  • Conrad, J. (1988). Heart of Darkness. New York: Norton.
  • Derrida, J. (1995). Living On Border Lines. Deconstruction and Criticism, 75-76.
  • Mulvey, L. (1999). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In L. Braudy, & M. Cohen, Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (pp. 833-44). New York: Oxford UP.
  • Spivak, G. (2008). Can the Subaltern Speak? In J. Sharp, Geographies of Postcolonialism (pp. 66-111). SAGE Publications.


Vision A – Vietnam War – Apocalypse Now – Research

Dear all,

After our meeting on the 10th March, some of us find it difficult to begin our research in relation to our specific areas of discussion. I’m sharing one method that can quickly help us to build up bibliography here – using JSTOR:


1. Go to and type in your research keywords – Apocalypse Now.

2. In the subject area (the bottom circle in red), you can choose the disciplinaries / academic field you would like to focus on. For example, Li wants to bring in East Asian perspectives on the Vietnam War and the film, then she can choose to filter the results with ‘Asian Studies’; Gabi wants to discuss ‘female’ characters in the film so she can filter the result with ‘Feminist and Women’s studies’.

3. After ticking the relevant fields, you can click update result (the middle circle in red), then you can find academic discussions in relation to both the film and your specific topics.

Hope this helps! If I come across any particularly interesting viewpoints and relevant materials for you, I will also write them in replies to this blog post.


Because our main material is the film, perhaps we should incorporate more details/proofs from the film itself. When reading academic resources from disciplines other than Film Studies, I often find scholars tend to limit their discussion to the plot and characterisation. However, there is a lot more than just those two aspects in a film: the editing, colouring, details of performance, camerawork angle/movement, music, soundtrack… are all decisions made by the filmmakers, and these decisions shape our experience and understanding of the film. If wish to discuss your points with closer attention to the film, please let me know, I’m more than happy to chat about it.

Vision A – Vietnam War – Preliminary research – Film Studies


Dear All,

I’m super happy that we’ve chosen a topic – the Vietnam War (1955-1975). In this post, I include some notes from my preliminary research from Film Studies. I thought these may be useful to you, as some of you would like to include film as your ‘data/material’ as part of the discussion; and it may help us to narrow down our research scope too.

There are more than 400 films produced around the Vietnam War: some films only use the was as a wide social backdrop, some films engage more directly with the war, discussing it’s rationals, representing the warfare itself, or reflecting on the implications of the war. While it is impossible to survey all of the films, I analysed some 126 films (features and documentaries) from the list of Vietnam War Film on Wikipedia, listing on IMDB, as well as a list provided by the British Film Institute. I have not seen many of these films myself, but the following data analysis will give us a better overview of the war in film representations.

1. By country of film production:Untitled

The majority of the films (feature and documentary films) are produced in the USA (97 films) , with The Republic of Vietnam (7 films), South Vietnam (2 films), Canada (5 films), the UK (5 films) and Hong Kong (4 films), and South Korea (3 films).

Please let us be aware that countries have film industry of different scales (both production and consumption), the statistics do not include smaller scale productions (short films and videos). For example, 7 feature film productions may constitute a major part of film production of Vietnamese film industry, whereas 97 feature films in the US film industry is still a very small percentage (therefore it may not be fair to say, for example, the film representation of the war is US-centric). Further, the resources I have gathered are generally in the English language (Resources such as wikipedia is arguably more frequently used by English language speakers, with less attention given to perspectives of non-English material). So my analysis is just a very rough calculation, so to speak.

2. By year of film production:Untitled

It may be particularly helpful to look at the years in which a large amount of Vietnam War films were produced. This may be a result that the filmmakers/film studios/government want to reflect on other issues, such as expressing anti-war message, advocating nationalism, or to comment on other warfare that the country was facing. There may be a delay in film representation, as it takes time from getting a film production to film exhibition. There are a lot of films produced in the year 1990 – could it be something happened in the late 80s that triggered this ‘wave’ of films?

3. By theme of film production
From a quick analysis on the keywords in the synopsis, war veterans are the most often filmed subject. In the 126 films in my analysis, there are 19 films’ leading characters are war veterans, with a few films covers recruitment, foreign soldiers in the war, refugees as the following most popular themes. Some films also represent the war through stories of military doctors and nurses. It would be also very interesting, if we look at how the themes have changed from before the war, during the war, to after the war.

Having looked at the above information, I find it would be very interesting to discuss the film representation in genre studies – War film as a genre (the Vietnam War films as a sub-genre). Although there is no strict definition of film genre, genre is sort of an ‘agreement’ between the filmmaker and the audience. For example, there is a consensus on what an action film should include and the style (fast-paced editing, music, fight choreography etc).

Regardless if the filmmakers had coded the messages in their films, the genre films often reflect social attitudes and values of the society. There are some scholars compare genre films to ‘ritualized drama’ – they reaffirm values in a predictable way (Bordwell, 2013:336). Such ‘ritualised drama’ may also help us to shift our attention from the ‘more disturbing aspects of the world’, to ‘the familiar characters and plots of genres way also serve to distract the audience from reality social problems. (ibid)’. I’m aware that it is oversimplified here a little, but it may be helpful to look at the film in relation to such a collective ‘vision’.


In our discussion this afternoon (Penny, Li and me), we thought it may be a good way to narrow down our discussion to one or two films. Then discussion issues raised through the films. For example, The Cultural Representation Of The Vietnam War: Apocalypse Now. Then to perform an interdisciplinary studies on this film. It would be much more focused topic for our 20 minutes presentation. Let me know what you think.

For me, I can always talk about the film: in relation to other Vietnam War films, how the ‘vision’ set up for us as an audience – what we see (lighting, colour, composition) in relation to the context of production and distribution.

We perhaps should look at other films to find some films particularly suitable for our discussion.

Link to the 126 films I included in my data analysis: click here 


(underlined parts are those we expressed an particular interest in previous discussion)

Auster, Albert, and Leonard Quart. How the war was remembered: Hollywood & Vietnam. Praeger Publishers, 1988.

Rasmussen, Karen, and Sharon D. Downey. “Dialectical disorientation in Vietnam War films: Subversion of the mythology of war.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 77, no. 2 (1991): 176-195.

Sturken, Marita. Tangled memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and the politics of remembering. Univ of California Press, 1997.

Jeffords, Susan. The remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam war.  Vol. 10. Indiana University Press, 1989.

Rowe, John Carlos, and Rick Berg, eds. The Vietnam War and American Culture. Columbia University Press, 1991.

Devine, Jeremy M. Vietnam at 24 frames a second: A critical and thematic analysis of over 400 films about the Vietnam War. University of Texas Press, 1999.

Lanning, Michael Lee. Vietnam at the Movies. Fawcett Books, 1994.

Malo, Jean-Jacques, and Tony Williams. “Vietnam war films.” Jefferson: McFarland & Company (1994).

Dittmar, Linda, and Gene Michaud. From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film. Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Adair, Gilbert. Hollywood’s Vietnam. William Heinemann, 1989.

Wetta, Frank Joseph, and Martin A. Novelli. “” Now a major motion picture”: War films and Hollywood’s new patriotism.” The Journal of Military History 67, no. 3 (2003): 861-882.




Wikipedia’s list of Vietnam War films: click here

IMDB Top 30 Realistic Vietnam War Movies: click here

British Film Institute’s 10 Great Vietnam War Films: click here

Vision A Meeting Notes: 10/02/2017

In an attempt to finalise our choice of subject matter, during the first half of the meeting, each member of the group pitched a topic which was subsequently graded by his or her peers. The topics up for discussion were as follows;

The Holocaust (1933-1945)

The Vietnam War (1955-1975)

The  Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)

New York City transit strike (1980)

The Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Female Vision in the Financial Crisis (2008)

Germany-Turkey relations following proposed EU deal (Ongoing)

After briefly discussing the merits of each topic in relation to the overall theme of ‘vision’, suggesting how research could be spread out across different disciplines, the group narrowed its selections down to; ‘The Vietnam War’ and ‘The Fall of the Berlin Wall’.

During the second half of the meeting, we convened with our module supervisor, Rosa. In an attempt to formulate a research question, we discussed several potential data sources related to our suggested topics. Due to a broader knowledge of sources on the subject, without cementing it as our final research choice, we focused mainly on notions of vision concerning the Vietnam War.


-As a means of utilising skills learned in both my major and minor disciplines  (Comparative Literature and Film Studies) I suggested using Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) as a primary text. I felt an analysis of the film in relation to its source material, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, would allow for an interesting reflection upon the parallels between British and American Imperialism across centuries.

-Also mentioned, was the work of Chinese and Cuban artists such as Felix Rene Mederos Pazos (Link available here: who created Communist propaganda in solidarity with the Vietcong. This was mentioned specifically as a means of providing a non-western perspective.

-Folk music and protest songs, which provided a soundtrack to the anti-war movement across the US, ultimately shaping a large part of 60s counterculture.

-Photojournalism and television news reports were discussed. We were interested in the idea of Vietnam as the first on-screen war, and how the medium of television changed public perceptions of US foreign policy.


Vision A Meeting Notes: 27/01/2017

In our first meeting together we discussed the way in which our essays linked to the topic of Vision

  • From a historical disciplinary perspective, we discussed how physical sight is used as a medium to gain knowledge.Using Fidel Castro as an example, Penny demonstrated that visual sources were important as Castro manipulated the construction of his own image using his own personal photographers.
  • From a film studies disciplinary perspective, Cilin discussed that a documentary doesn’t necessarily evoke ‘truth’, using an early documentary on the Canadian Arctic as an example. He focused on the relationship between the director and the viewer and how essentially the viewer’s knowledge was manipulated:through the eyes of the director,through the Gaze(popularized by Lacan) and the reception of the audience.
  • From a geographical disciplinary perspective, we discussed the way the problematic nature of varied visions in geographical research. Gabi argued  that knowledge regarded as ‘truthful’ can be manipulated through her investigation into the methodology of fisheries research, the influence of prejudice on this research andhow political funding can shape the ‘sustainability’ of research.
  • From a political disciplinary perspective, we discussed again the visual representation of the ‘strong political figure’. Li focused on the image of Gadaffi, the former president of Libya during the Arab Spring. She expressed the importance of the media and how it constructed various perspectives.
  • From a comparative literature disciplinary perspective, Ben explored the how the alternate vision has changed through comparing, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly”.

We then discussed various topics for the research question:

  • The general idea of manipulating knowledge  through visual means was put to the table depicted through:
    • Hypernormalisation – An Adam Curtis BBC Documentary that focuses on how varying institutions have built up a ‘vision’ of a fake world from the 1970s to the present day.[]
    • Mock-u-mentaries
    • By Paul Greengrass
    • Misinformation
  • Discussing the inter-related nature of our essays, we found that the ‘male political figure’ was prominent, which made us question: why? & how?
    • For example, why had we excluded the female vision from our research?
  • We wanted to focus on a particular social event that would incorporate all of our disciplines and also span enough time so that we could get sufficient sources/ data for our research project.
    • Hurricane Katrina
    • 9/11

We have started an email chain, and we are working out possible research topics through sending in suggestions by the 03/02/2017. We will work out 3 areas per person, and then narrow down our question to 2 topics. Cilin attached a helpful timeline for the project.

A socially sustainable vision: Analysing different perceptions of the local stakeholders’ degree of participation in fisheries research Newfoundland, Canada

Inherent in geographical research today is a fascination with the term ‘sustainability’. The ‘UN Brundtland Commission report’ underlined that ‘Sustainability is a simple concept’ and defined sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The definition breeds positivity and optimism, and perhaps this is the reason why this sweeping term is used frequently in research today, because of the term’s indistinct goal….With this in mind, I will address the topic of establishing a sustainable vision in research which encompasses the ethical requirements that are essential when conducting research.

The cod population was close to extinction in 1992 in Newfoundland and had been linked to ‘over-fishing ( both domestic and foreign), federal mismanagement […] and over-capacity in the harvesting and processing sectors. Moreover, perception borne out of this crisis was that science was ‘not the solution but pat of the problem’. Investigating local people’s involvement within fisheries research in Newfoundland since 1977 to the present day is one way to trace how research is evolving in this respect. This essay does not assert that local knowledge equates to useful knowledge, but it investigates how local knowledge aids social cohesion in fisheries research…

Derek Keats'Beauty, bounty and tragedy of the Newfoundland fishery'

Derek Keats: Beauty, bounty and tragedy of the Newfoundland fishery