HBO’s The Pacific, Episode 7

Oh, thank god there are only three episodes left. And with it being final week of classes this semester – combined with allergies/sinus infection – I’m behind posting schedule again (at least you get this before Episode 8, right?).

I realized most of the way through Episode 7 – around the time that Snafu was skipping rocks into the dead enemy’s open skull – that this episode, at least, is all about questioning the mythology of The Good War.

….now, on further reflection, I would say that they’ve been trying to do that all along, and that perhaps this is the problem. How do you tell a story that respects veteran’s sacrifices for their country, honors the memory of those that fought and died, portray the enemy as a legitimate threat (and someone to rally against – let’s face it: your audience has to feel what’s at stake in battle, yes?), and yet still portray the reality of the atrocities that all parties involved participated in over the course of the war.

In my experience – particularly with the world history course I helped teach last fall (“The World in World War II”) – debunking the myth of WW2 as “the good war” isn’t necessarily new. We do this every time we Americans sit down and reflect on things like the internment of Japanese-Americans, for example.

But perhaps we don’t do enough of this. And perhaps, as important a message as that is to convey – perhaps debunking the myth of the good war has become the undoing of The Pacific. (That, likely combined with the disparate figures who tend to remain very disconnected from one another, meaning we have little to no continuity across personal perspectives each week. For example, we spent several weeks with Leckie, and now he’s virtually gone – just as I really started to like him.)

This seems, more than anything else, to be both cause and problem. It’s immensely difficult to rewrite such a major mythos of American history. It’s immensely important on the same token, however. But do it wrong, and you alienate the people you tried to honor. Do it right, and you may sacrifice your ability to tell a really strong, important, and useful story.

Hanks and Spielberg may have succeeded in casting doubt on the “good war” story, but at what cost?

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