Saturday, May 22, 2010

Band of Brothers pt. 2

Where Is Everyone Else?

I grumbled a little about representation issues last night while I was watching Band of Brothers, and Ian does raise the point that units were segregated at the time, which I was aware of. Last night, however, it just struck me as absurd that the 101st Airborne hasn't run into any of the segregated units. Not even mentioned! Or any Asians; I noticed this because someone was speaking Spanish

Now that I'm thinking about it, though, Band of Brothers focuses on Easy Company of the 101st pretty narrowly in general; D Company is only seen briefly once in the ones I've seen, and that's to steal their commanding officer to bring him to Easy Company. There's one episode where Easy Company rescues a group of British soldiers, but we only actually see the British in one brief scene afterwards. Only in this episode I was watching last night do we see German civilians for the first time.

My father also pointed out the usual American stereotype that concentration camps were filled with nothing but Jews. In Band of Brothers, when they liberate a Jewish work-camp (not a concentration camp), one of the Jews references Poles and Gypsies, but there's no mention of the disabled or homosexuals who were also sent.

Beauty In Tragedy

But of all the stereotypes that I wonder about in Band of Brothers, the one I wound up getting the most fired up about is the stereotype of a group of violinists playing sad string music while sitting on top of the rubble of the town they lived in. There's something about sentimental violin music that makes rampant destruction and chaos seem beautifully necessary.

I haven't figured out what primal itch in our brain slow motion and string music itches that it makes everything seem like it's the way it is supposed to be, but I happen to know that if you just show something happen with no special effects, it is far more brutal than if you put some sad violin music and frame everyone feeling sad.


No, not the exceptional history book by Tony Judt (which by the way tackles the catastrophic homogenization that happened before, during, and after World War Two).

The one question that watching Band of Brothers raised in my mind is, how did these people's lives progress after the war? One of the interviews with the real-life 101st Airborne members talked about how he even today couldn't stop going back to the Battle of the Bulge in his mind.

That's why I'm really happy about the decision to continue making Foyle's War despite the fact that the war ended at the end of the last season. There are TV characters who are soldiers, and TV characters who are veterans, but rarely do we get to see the character's war experiences, and then see the characters try to return to the world as it was. Foyle's War, however, is going to have a very different story to tell than, say, a Band of Brothers that continues past the end of the war; for Britain, World War Two was a nationally shared experience; in the United States, World War Two was shared among veterans, but had a very different impact on the civilian population.

Just as American war films/TV often compartmentalize the US Military, shutting out the other forces that are at war with us, so do they also often compartmentalize the experience of war; as though soldiers start existing the moment they show up at training, and dematerialize at the end of it.

No comments: