The Cowboy Patriot

In retrospect, the film Green Berets serves rather neatly, in conjunction with reviews in the New York Times and other high-toned publications, to illustrate the period's sharp split between elite and mass opinion on the Vietnam War.

Issue: Fall 1996

"The Green Berets is a film so unspeakable, so stupid, so rotten and false . . . that it passes through being fun, through being funny, through being camp, through everything and becomes an invitation to grieve, not for our soldiers in Vietnam or for Vietnam (the film could not be more false or do a greater disservice to either of them) but for what has happened to the fantasy-making apparatus. . . . Simplicities of the right, simplicities of the left, but this one is beyond the possible. It is vile and insane."

Thus wrote the film critic of the New York Times about The Green Berets, the movie John Wayne produced, co-directed, and starred in, about Viet Cong murderousness and American heroism in Vietnam. The film, released in June 1968, some months after the Tet Offensive, was one of the year's blockbuster movies at American box offices. In retrospect, it serves rather neatly, in conjunction with reviews in the New York Times and other high-toned publications, to illustrate the period's sharp split between elite and mass opinion on the Vietnam War.

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