John Wayne and the Cult(ure) of Movies

Here is my response to a comment posted by Robyn Riley on the About page of my blog who asked, for reasons of “post graduate research”: Did your dad grow up watching John Wayne movies? Do you know if he thought Vietnam was going to be like what he had grown up seeing in the movies?

My reply:

The short answer to your question is that John Wayne had no impact on my dad.

Now here’s the long answer. We discussed the Vietnam War all the time and not once did John Wayne factor into the conversation. Growing up my dad liked the following television shows: Perry Mason; The Wild, Wild West; Rawhide; and the Andy Griffith Show, and he was a fan of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies.

My dad was not a one-dimensional, fictional character come to life fighting the good fight in a staunchly anti-communist movie such as The Green Berets. He was well aware that war, no matter how it’s packaged, is still war. My dad was drafted, he didn’t volunteer and he most certainly did not want to go to war. His grades were poor and so believing that college wasn’t an option he got married in 1966 hoping that would help him avoid the war; six months prior he had received notice from Selective Service.

Admittedly, John Wayne was a beloved actor whose movie, The Green Berets, espoused the ideals of General MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech but the movie opened in theaters the same month my dad returned home from Vietnam. And besides my dad was an isolationist.