"Vietnam is more than just a war": How Kieu Chinh helped evolve the Hollywood War Machine Propaganda

Submitted by Chris Carr on
Kieu Chinh

In this recently published article by Teresa Tran, Vietnamese American actress Kieu Chinh, 86, shares how Hollywood's depiction of the Vietnam War has evolved over the years. In short, these Hollywood Vietnam War stories would conveniently leave out the Vietnamese perspective and rarely feature Vietnamese characters with actual names. “They’re not characters with a story,” Kieu Chinh tells me in a Zoom interview. “If there are female characters mentioned, they’re either a prostitute, a peasant or get killed in the mud.”

An example is the quote "Me love you long time" said by a Vietnamese sex worker to an American Marine in Stanley Kubrick's “Full-Metal Jacket” (1987). Associate Professor Linh Thủy Nguyễn weighed in sharing her expertise on the matter. "These simplified representations have come to frame Asian women as whores and impact the racist desire of Asian women broadly. The quote further erases the conditions of militarized imperial violence that shaped the realities of life under war and made coerced sexual labor one of the only viable forms of economic opportunity," said Linh.

As a byproduct of the Hollywood war machine, these portrayals of Vietnamese people, particularly Vietnamese women, erased the humanity in the countries where Americans were committing war crimes. We can also arguably see the consequence of these portrayals in the form of anti-Asian hate crimes, such as the Atlanta spa killings, today.