Light at the end of the tunnel: representing war in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's The Vietnam War
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The aim of this study is to determine the objectivity of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War (2017) 10-parter series in comparison to past Vietnam documentaries such as Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig (1968) and Peter Davis’ Hearts and Minds (1974). In doing so, this study observes Burns and Novick’s approaches in stylistic editing and the omission of certain narratives of the war, along with what such choices suggest of the political stances assumed by the series and its predecessors. Through each chapter, the study observes: the caustic portrayal of leaders, from their decisions to enter into and prosecute war and the effects of these decisions that remain after their leadership has ended; the way the series empathizes with first-hand veteran accounts through visual reconstruction; and the acknowledgement of the media as ever-present in the representation of the public and the war. The relation between each chapter’s focus is related to the way audiences connect with the war, whether through documented history, public opinion, and/or personal experiences. The study concludes that while the series maintains its objectivity to an extent, it gives a decidedly American perspective of the war.