The war with no end: why American television refuses to leave the trenches

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American TV has long been a barometer for the country’s feelings on its military – so what do a new crop of shows say about the opinions of a divided nation?

Military shows have always had a special place in the American television landscape, often reflecting the country’s feelings about its armed forces, and their role in the world. The dominant mood in the 1950s and 60s was light. Sitcoms such as The Phil Silvers Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC and Hogan’s Heroes presented military life as a goofy romp, even if it was happening in a Nazi prison camp. When the national mood soured in the 70s, the tragicomedy M*A*S*H* hinted at the nation’s growing disillusionment with the Vietnam war. Even the 80s camp of The A-Team tapped into widespread distrust of the government after various scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair.

Since 2001, the global war on terror has been the focus of the majority of military shows, with most feeling fearful or angry. From network procedurals like 24 to prestige offerings like Homeland, the terrorist threat has been real, imminent, and often deadly. America’s enemies will not give up or sue for peace. They must be defeated. Fortunately, America is guarded by exemplary soldiers. Shows about elite military teams, like The Unit (2006-09) and Six (2017), have extolled the courage, camaraderie and loyalty of American soldiers. Only rare exceptions, like David Simon’s Generation Kill (2008), have expressed deep skepticism about America’s foreign adventures.

Related: Your next box set: Generation Kill

While none of these new shows is so straightforwardly right wing, they still prop up the military industrial complex

Valor may be critical of American warfare, but there still seems to be no other option

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Source: us-military
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