The long war onscreen: a genre study of the war on terror in American cinema
Henson, Jason Kyle
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Over fifteen years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States is still fighting the nebulous “War on Terror” – a conflict that includes ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as covert operations around the world (including the homeland). American cinema responded to the War on Terror in fits and starts, with many filmmakers wary of tackling such a controversial topic. For a War on Terror film to be financially successful, it would need to appeal to both supporters and detractors of the war effort. To do so, the War on Terror film genre builds on the narrative, characterization, and aesthetic frameworks of the war films of World War II and the Vietnam War to develop a set of conventions that recall the ideological projects of the films of those previous wars. By examining the combat film, espionage film, and returning soldier film subgenres, this thesis will demonstrate how the War on Terror film genre formally and ideologically represents the divisive ongoing war to appeal to both pro-war and anti-war viewers.