Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Good Morning, Vietnam by Aaron Charny

Title/Year: Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Director/Birth Country/Year Born: Barry Levinson, USA, 1942
Budget: $13,000,000 (estimated)
Gross: $123,922,370 (USA)
Synopsis: An unorthodox and controversial DJ begins to shake things up when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam.
Narrative and Visual Keywords: Vietnam, war-comedy, loosely based biography, Armed Forces Radio Service, radio DJ, humor
Characterization/ Dialogue: In 1965, military D.J. Adrian Cronauer was sent to Vietnam to build morale. His strategy: keep them laughing. His problem: staying out of trouble.
Camera/lighting/editing technique: During the war montage in the movie, Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World is broadcasted from the radio station. Playing this song during war is contradictory, nevertheless it shows that Robin Williams’s character is unorthodox, and hid goal is to please and comfort the solders in Vietnam, showing them there is “another” world.
Political/ Social Commentary: Robin Williams's portrayal of Adrian Cronauer has led to controversy as to the beliefs of the real Cronauer. He said that the film is about 45 percent accurate and misrepresented him to make him seem anti-war, when he was, in his own words, "anti-stupidity". In fact, today Cronauer - who is now a lawyer - remains an active Republican and was a vice-chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Furthermore, Cronauer has also said that if he'd done half the things Williams did in the film, he would've been court-martialed and sent to Fort Leavenworth.
Historical Relevance/ Recognition: Robin Williams was awarded a Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical", and an American Comedy Award for "Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)". He also got his first Academy Award nomination for  "Best Actor".
Notable Collaboration: Director Barry Levinson has directed Robin Williams in two other feature films: Toys (1992) and Man of the Year (2006).
Random fact, Etc. In 1979, Adrian Cronauer pitched a sitcom based on his experiences as an AFRS DJ. TV networks were not interested, however, because they did not see war as comedy material, despite the fact that one of the most popular shows at the time was M*A*S*H. Cronauer then changed his sitcom into a script for a movie of the week, which eventually got the attention of Robin Williams. Very little of Cronauer's original script remained after writer Mitch Markowitz was brought in. The film was shot in Bangkok, Thailand. Robin Williams ad-libbed all of Adrian Cronauer's broadcasts.

Response Questions:

1. Is the soldier/veteran depicted as being in control of his destiny? Give examples.

Through out the film Adrian Cronauer is closely monitored on what he is allowed to say on radio and what he is not allowed to say. He tries to fight and defend his creativity by delivering current events and entertaining the troops with comedy, rock-an-roll and satire and achieves great recognition from soldiers After going overboard on a comedy bit, making fun of Richard Nixon, Cronauer is suspended. While on suspension the troops fighting in Vietnam request to get him back on the radio. A few weeks after he gets back on the job, his sergeant dismisses him from active duty for befriending a Vietnamese kid who ended up being a VC operative responsible for the bombing a local bar which a lot of the US soldiers hung out at.

2. What political sub-text, or overt theme is the film exploring?

Most Vietnam movies show realism, form the point of view of the soldiers fighting the war. Even though we see combat in the film, none of the main characters are fighting in this combat. Adrian Cronauer is a DJ. Upon his assigned arrival  to Vietnam, he takes it as a new job with no real purpose. After meeting many of the soldiers who became huge fans of his morning show he learns that his efforts at the radio station actually mean something to this war. Cronauer starts getting into trouble with his sergeant over different material that Cronauer wants to broadcast. The Army has censured so much news and music styles form the soldiers that fight for their lives at this war. When Cronauer fights to broadcast the news, he gets shutdown from live radio and gets suspended. He eventually is dismissed from active duty.

3. How are masculinity and patriarchy displayed through the main character(s) -- broken and dissociated or reinstated and productive. Please give examples

Adrian Cronauer’s Lieutenant and Sergeant are both against the DJ’s senses of humor. They are very strict as to what news and jokes Cronauer is allowed to broadcast. However Gen. Taylor loves the material and finds it amusing and entertaining. We see many solider out on the fields laughing to Cronauer’s jokes. We see the Gen. Taylor laughing to Cronauer’s jokes. But Lt. Steven Hauk and Sgt. Major Dickerson don’t think Cronauer is funny at all. When Cronauer gets suspended, Lt. Steven Hauk replaces him. No one laughs at Lt. Hauk’s jokes and while Cronauer plays Rock and Roll for the troops; Lt. Hauk’s plays polka music. Cronauer’s radio crew start appealing to Gen. Taylor asking him to bring the funny DJ back to the station, which he ends up doing.


  1. I've actually met the real Adrian Cronauer back in the late 90's when I visited Washington D.C. for an 8th grade field trip (his niece or cousin was one of my classmates). We had all gathered at a restaurant and he did a little explanation as to how he was frantically setting up the microphone, cords, etc. just seconds before he would have to be on air, saying "Good Morning, Vietnam."