Early vietvets and drugs in American films

Wed, 31 Jan 1996 08:38:33 -0500

Maggie, et al.

In the 19 films I looked at about veterans which came out
between 1967 and 1973, Vietvets don't equate their use of
drugs or alcohol with service. The two films (really low
budget) with Tom Stern as the Vietvet, he celebrates smoking
pot, and thinks the war on drugs is stupid because it
persecutes the small-time drug user and not the corporate
pushers. The Black Vietvets in Gordon's War fight against
the upsurge of heroin use in Harlem, but don't mention its
use in Vietnam. The Black Vietvet in Slaughter helps the US
gov't capture S.American drug producers. The vet in Two
People actively disapproves of the romantic lead smoking
pot. The fact that he is played by Peter Fonda is, of
course, amusing. Billy Jack eschews alcohol and in
the first vet film, The Born Losers, kills a number
of drug-using biker fiends. WWII veterans are typically
portrayed in these films as failed fathers and husbands as
well as alcohol abusers. Most of the Vietvets do not abuse
alcohol, nor is violence necessarily equated with their
having drunk too much alcohol. In my group of films at
least, the awareness that service in Vietnam was training
young men to use drugs had not yet appeared.

Melinda Schwenk