As a Vietnam veteran, clinical psychologist, and veterans’ rights activist, Patrick Weichert is unimpressed with the way the Vietnam war — and most wars in general — are portrayed in film and television. Patrick Weichert argues that Vietnam wasn’t “all gore and sadness,” and that Hollywood’s version of war can at times be a far cry from reality.
The media version of war, particularly Vietnam, is one that Patrick Weichert and other veterans criticize. Television programs like China Beach and Tour of Duty are dismissed by Weichert as “horrendous — unreal, theatrical, and overdone.” The oddly unrealistic depictions of Vietnam may also be related to the films and television shows created during the height of the Vietnam era. Often these films and shows followed predictable propagandist storylines where the enemy Viet Cong was presented in the worst light possible and American soldiers were the liberators of the peasants suffering from a Communist regime. Even pro-war actor and star John Wayne, an ardent anti-Communist, felt his movie, The Green Beret, would, through a simplistic plot, show those Americans who opposed the war that they were in the wrong.
For Vietnam veterans like Patrick Weichert, the film industry’s interpretation of the war is different in many ways from reality. Weichert notes “A lot of crazy stuff went on — it was just wild, no control […] Did Marines in Vietnam have fun? Sure they did. It was funny […] It was misplanned, mismanaged, mis-executed, mis-everything.” Weichert does point to John Lithgow’s in Distant Thunder, as a Vietnam veteran reunited with his son as a representation of the war that he respected.