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Vietnam and beyond: rethinking Oliver Stone's Platoon (1976-2006)

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In recent years, historians and film scholars such as Robert Rosenstone, Robert Burgoyne, Natalie Zemon Davis and J.E. Smyth have developed valuable new approaches to the analysis of historical films. While their methods and conclusions differ, all provide nuanced accounts of the ways that certain films and film-makers can, in Rosenstone’s words, ‘intersect with, comment upon, and add something to the larger discourse of history out of which they grow and to which they speak’ (Rosenstone, 2006, 39). This essay builds upon such works, and develops an innovative methodology by which a film’s contribution to historical discourse can be examined at several points in its theatrical and non-theatrical life cycle. I focus on Oliver Stone’s much-discussed Vietnam drama, Platoon. Combining an analysis of unpublished draft scripts (1984–86), promotion and reception materials from the time of the film’s original 1986 release and special features included on its latest DVD incarnation, Platoon: 20th Anniversary Edition (2006), I demonstrate how this film has functioned as a canvas upon which numerous historical narratives have been written and re-written over a period of more than 20 years. In doing so, this essay both reveals the ways in which Platoon has operated as an ever-expanding archive of materials on recent American history and challenges existing understandings of this much-studied historical film.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-376
Number of pages18
JournalRethinking History
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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