American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations

Recasting Narratives: Accessing Collective Memory of the Vietnam War in Modern Popular Media Texts

Tyler Wertsch, Bowling Green State University


The question of how the Vietnam War has is remembered in American public memory is a difficult one. While a tremendous body of work exists that explains the nuances of and tribulations of American memory of the conflict through examinations of film, memorial sites, and museums, very little work exists that addresses how comic book-based television shows and films or video games access or even influence memory. As more recent American conflicts begin to occupy spaces previously reserved for memory of older conflicts, synergies of disparate memories and memory structures may occur, especially in the realm of entertainment that commodifies memory for mass consumption. This study explores intersections of popular media and the Vietnam War by: 1) consulting and synthesizing memory theory relevant to this area of memory, including work by John Bodnar, Carol Gluck, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Allison Landsberg; 2) contributing new models to theorize memory structures, including intersections of market forces and official memory in the way media is organized for consumers and how anxieties related to older events manifest themselves in media set in later times; 3) how comic-based media are rich texts for memory analysis, particularly as they are adapted for wider consumption; and 4) how modern military shooter video games access and reinforce potentially damaging patterns of American memory.