Well, not sure how you found yourself here, but I’m happy you stopped by.
Why am I here? Well, I have a passion for exploring TV and culture. I’m an occasional academic, writing on masculinity, fashion, Irish literature, comedy and war (and a few other things). I’m here because I probably spend a bit too much time watching television and way too much time thinking about it.
One thing I find myself thinking quite often about is how television uses war for entertainment. I can’t think of anything less entertaining than war — it’s brutal, horrific and cruel. But it’s also everywhere – films, TV, video games… Jean Baudrillard refers to it as ‘war porn’.
And yet, there has been a distinct lack of exploration in how war is conveyed to an audience through scripted television. This is surprising, as there are literally hundreds of television programmes that explore various war settings. Perhaps one of the most famous of these programmes is the programme M*A*S*H (1972-1983), set in an army hospital during the American involvement of the Korean War (1950-1953). Other programmes worth note include Hogan’s Heroes (1965- 1971); It Ain’ Half Hot, Mum (1974- 1981); ‘Allo ‘Allo (1982-1992); Dad’s Army (1968-1977), each set in World War II; China Beach (1988- 1991), Tour of Duty (1987- 1990), focusing on the American involvement of Vietnam War (1959-1975).
The representation of war is not limited to programmes specifically set during a war, however: several programmes also explore life after war for veterans who struggle to adjust to civilian life. Most noticeable for this is Magnum P.I., which regularly uses flashbacks of the Vietnam War focusing on Thomas Magnum, a veteran who lives in Hawaii, along with three friends who are also veterans.
Genre programmes, specifically science-fiction, tends to utilise the trope of the ‘shell-shocked veteran’ who proves somewhat unstable due to PTSD from war. There’s Firefly (2002-2003), (and the subsequent theatrical feature, Serenity, 2005), focusing on a soldier, Mal Reynolds, a veteran from a futuristic war; and Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) shows both life during a futuristic war as well as those who suffer from PTSD from the war itself. In Doctor Who (revival- 2005-present), The Doctor, as the lone survivor of the Time War, occasionally shows PTSD and instability due to his war experiences. Specific episodes address this link between war, trauma and the veteran. Other programmes, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) explore life in war, war survival and PTSD in a more limited capacity for specific episodes such as ‘The Hunted’, ‘Common Ground’, ‘Chain of Command 1& 2’, and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, more than TNG, deals with war — ‘Duet’, for example, shows war veteran Kira trying to bring justice to a man she believes was responsible for war crimes. Although this is set in a fictional war in the future on a fictional planet, there are very intentional and specific links to be made with the prison camps and war criminals of World War II.
These are just a few areas of interest — but most striking is the fact that war, as entertainment, is such an under-researched field. Moreoever, as a Gothicist, I can’t help but notice that there are some very strong links in how many Gothic tropes are used within these programmes to represent war. It doesn’t seem to matter whether show is comedy or drama, portraying historical or fictional wars, or whether or past traumas resurfacing for veterans suffering from PTSD: Gothic tropes are used to display these experiences.
So, this blog aims to further explore how war, comedy and gothic are used together for entertainment within television, but to also give attention to how the experiences of soldiers and veterans are relayed through gothic tropes. Not every post will have such a specific focus, but generally I will try to keep it all related. Rarely, I might look at films like war films Duck Soup (1933) and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) — but television is definitely my preferred medium.
Due to my busy schedule, I intend to post a blog once a month – however, this may be a bit over-ambitious, so forgive me if there are long delays. I shall try!
If you’re still here after reading all of that, then welcome again to Khaki Gothic!
‘Nice war we had. Of course, every war has its cute things. World War II had nice songs. The War of the Roses had nice flowers. We’ve got booms, they had blooms. Actually, every war has its ‘ooms. You’ve got doom, gloom, everybody ends in a tomb, the planes go zoom, and they bomb your room.’ – Hawkeye Pierce, ‘Goodbye, Farewell, Amen’ (M*A*S*H)